Tapesongs by Joan La Barbara

Avant-vocalist Joan La Barbara was virtually in a field of one with what she was doing in 1977 at the time of Tapesongs. As the title (and the awesome cover) suggests, she starts bringing tape manipulations into her pieces for extraordinary extended-technique vocals, for extra wonder. Includes a piece she prepared with John Cage. Remastered LP reissue on Arc Light Editions.

Vinyl LP £19.49 ALE006

LP on Arc Light Editions in Kraftliner outer & art paper inner sleeve. Remastered from the original tapes by Rashad Becker.

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Tapesongs by Joan La Barbara
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7/10 Robin 27 July 2016

Bypassing any and all puns that can be made about tapes I’ll move swiftly into a declaration that ‘Tapesongs’ is a repress from the late ‘70s, when Joan La Barbara stood as pretty much one of the only people prominently utilising the tape as an object of song composition. That’s not to say these sound like songs as you know them -- rather, they sound like what we’d envision it to be like if tapes sang, allowing multi-tracking and layering to dictate the plays of vocal iterations.

Listening to the first track proper (after a brief clarification of La Barbara’s work) you’re met with ghastly annunciations and screeching elongations that sound like tape rewinding. A droning vocal figure dominates proceedings, with the sound ultimately one that’s looping amidst slight changes -- think Morton Feldman’s haunted-house vocal pieces, with lots of tutting and squirming to boot. On “Song for Voice”, a piece workshopped with John Cage, the voice becomes more conversational, with squeaks and mutters seemingly responding to (and sometimes interrupting) one another. These staccato iterations are met with occasionally sustained vocals, seemingly melding together lightning fast speech with moments of clarity.

The final track is a twenty-three minute epic in which the vocal work of La Barbara is met with an equally disorienting percussive chaos, with a 48-beat cycle driving a light storm of noise through the silences. It’s an immensely uncomfortable but equally striking piece that focuses on the dynamics of volume and the anticipation of voice work both harsh and random in its placement. When Uh. It's intense?

When Laurie gets back from his holiday I’ll ask him to explain it all.



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