A gem from the 80s treasure chest of synth and sample explorations: originally released in 1986 as Michele Musser, Eye Chant is the debut album of Pennsylvanian experimental artist Michele Mercure. It is one of the first to arrive via Freedom To Spend, a new imprint from RVNG Intl from New York which specialises in showcasing self-taught musicians from the 70s and 80s who followed in the tradition of Pierre Schaeffer’s tape manipulations but, despite their noteworthiness, remained largely undiscovered.
Eye Chant as such delivers a full dosage of weirdness, sending us through the rabbit hole with its peculiar assemblage of vocal samples, drum machines, animal and nature sounds: ‘100% Bridal Illusion’, named after a type of lace used in wedding gowns, deploys a spiraling organ sequence which keeps straying from its path, and morphs into a drum solo as mad as a march hare. The seagulls and steamboat of ‘Proteus and the Marlin’ set the scene for a disturbing tale, marking Mercure’s complete metamorphosis to a raconteur: it is the story of a woman sleeping with a stuffed marlin for the rest of her life after her husband (who believed he was a Greek god) throws himself off the Golden Gate Bridge. The title track, ‘Eye Chant’ is a humorous arrangement of a single vocal sample and epitomizes the talent of this curious sound explorer: while the original cover showed Mercure with an eyeball in her mouth, the reissue’s cover leaves only the graphic elements, suspended across time.