The Australian duo of Jarrod Zlatic and Nisa Venerosa harness expansiveness through a sepia-tone collage of intangible digital textures and adapted vocal chamber music. Formed in the early 2000’s, previous albums for cult-labels like Chapter Music and Siltbreeze waded through dubby psych-rock territories but their latest for ALTER stands alone. Recorded in Melbourne by Sam Karmel (F ingers, CS + Kreme), the album occupies an eerie, pastoral kind of twilight zone. Venerosa’s stark singing style challenging the ambient textures weaving in and out of the stereo field.
Plain Songs slowly unfolds through a mesh of processed drones, flickering static and fragile yet propulsive bedding loops. G.B.H sees the pair utilising layers of spoken word and keyboard motifs atop spiralling background whirs and softly uttered harmonies. The late-night atmosphere pervades with On Temptation and Forever Turned where slow, dissonant passages work in tandem with Venerosa’s spectral vocal shifts. Zlatic’s trumpet howls into the ether on ‘Flowers and Fade’ accompanied by drum rattles, repetitive mantras and oscillating synthesisers to mark one of the LP’s most unique and isolated moments. There are hints of Nico’s Janitor of Lunacy and Meredith Monk’s Book of Days at play, where the icy screeches and distortions give way to the wax and wane poetry of ‘A Short Confession’. The overall power of Plain Songs hinges on the strength of the voice and the way it interacts with the sound world around it, Venerosa demonstrating an ability to flit between moods and assume control. It is ever present and in sync with the cosmos, fighting its way through the dark and igniting the beacon.