Our Daily Bread 535 : Helena Celle ‘Music For Counterflows’

August 10, 2022

ALBUM REVIEW
ANDREW C. KIDD

Helena Celle ‘Music For Counterflows’
(False Walls)

Marilyn Monroe once affirmed, “if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”. I think Helena Celle (aka Kay Logan) paraphrased this quote in the title of her debut release on Night School Records. It was filled with trippy tape loops and glitch-skips. Imagine Oval underwater, Yasunao Tone upside-down, Prefuse 73 in reverse. The outcome: an aqueous amalgam of melodia, a scatterplot of musical notation. The neighbouring tracks ‘I’m Done With 666’ and ‘Miming Swinging Baseball Bat’ were electronica bliss, ambrosia for the audiophile. That was 2016. Fast forward to present times and Music For Counterflows, which was recently released on the False Walls label. This one-hour continuous piece of music was originally written for Counterflows 2021, Glasgow’s annual festival celebrating experimentalism. The name suggests a stream pushing itself upriver. It serves as an artistic anti-current.

Patterned is how I would describe Music For Counterflows. Celle’s repeated designs are muddy clangs and clock-like bells that helicopter around in fragmenting movements. Although cyclical, each of its musical lines never cross the x- and y-axes twice. The grains of a broken beat provide minimal reference, like the paper of a map that has lost its inked markings. During my first listen, I wondered whether the drum machine was going to be the constant in this altering equation. Alas, it disintegrates later like every other variable in the algorithm. The Waldorf Blofeld synthesiser wails and howls. Its syncopated notes eventually become held-notes. There are key changes aplenty. Melody is fugitive. Music for Counterflows was composed using MaxMSP, the limitless visual programming system with graphical as opposed to textual programming. This partly explains what I am listening to. The rest I have attributed to Celle’s magicry.

According to the interview on the Counterflows website [1] (and also included in the CD booklet), Celle described similarities in her sound to “late-period Frank Zappa”, particularly his Synclavier works. I can also hear echoes of influence on Amnerika from his post-humour album Civilization Phase III. She also mentioned being inspired by Annea Lockwood. Lockwood, the piano burner. Lockwood, the academic. I regard Celle as more of an alchemist than an academic. She transfigures time and place and transforms rhythm into the irrhythmic. She improvises and hypnotises and experiments from an electronic playbook less-leafed. My applause goes to her.

Reference:

  1. Helena Celle by Stewart Smith. Available from: https://counterflows.com/interview/helena-celle-by-stewart-smith/

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