Tamar-kali: Shirley Original Soundtrack review | John Lewis’s contemporary album of the month | Music

Born and based in Brooklyn, Tamar-kali leads a broad array of musical projects. She fronts a PJ Harvey-ish rock outfit under her own name, and featured in the 2006 documentary Afro-Punk, about black punk and hardcore performers. She leads and composes for a string sextet, the Psychochamber Ensemble, its repertoire spanning pop, R&B and chamber pieces. In addition, she has been a musical director for big bands, and most recently, written major scores for films including The Assistant, Mudbound, Come Sunday and The Last Thing He Wanted.

Tamar-kali: Shirley soundtrack album art work

Tamar-kali: Shirley soundtrack album art work

Her latest is for Josephine Decker’s Shirley – a psychodrama based, loosely, on the life of the writer Shirley Jackson – and is a fascinating piece of score writing. As well as using piano and string quartet, Tamar-kali also multi-tracks her voice on six of the album’s 21 short tracks, but it bears little resemblance to the voice you hear on her rock work. Instead, she sings in a full-throated choral howl that recalls folk singers the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir (contributors to Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares projects) – an ecstatic but eerily vibratoless sound, embroidered with whoops and microtonal dissonances.

There are moments – the chugging, Michael Nyman-ish string stabs, the tightly wound clockwork passages for pizzicato strings – that sound like they were plotted on graph paper. Tamar-kali is better when she’s exploring the sonorities of the string quartet – shivery tremolo violins, spiccato cello bounces, col legno effects with the back of the bow – and creating tense sonic textures that are incredibly effective at conjuring an air of claustrophobic terror. Expect more extraordinary soundtracks from this major talent.

Also out this month

Yair Elazar Glotman is a Berlin-based Israeli bassist who has co-written with big names such as Jóhan Jóhannsson and Oscar-winner Hildur Guðnadóttir. His latest collaboration with Swedish composer Mats Erlandsson, Emanate (FatCat/130701) is an immersive and intense piece of minimalism written for an unorthodox 10-piece ensemble (including strings, trombone, organ, zither). Lengthy drones merge into each other and morph at a glacial pace, but – like the surface of a Kazimir Malevich painting – what seems clean and rectilinear at first glance is actually filled with fascinating granular detail and jagged edges.

Age 83, Can’s keyboardist Irmin Schmidt is still pushing boundaries and making extraordinary music. Nocturne (Mute Records), recorded at the Huddersfield contemporary music festival last year, sees him playing delicate melodies on a prepared piano. Bolts and screws are placed in the strings to create gamelan-style percussive effects and odd harmonics. As each lengthy piece progresses, Schmidt starts to layer tons of real-time effects on the instrument until it resembles a noisy, rumbling piece of junkyard percussion.

This article was amended on 12 June 2020 to replace the main image. A captioning error in photos supplied by an agency led us to publish a picture that was not of the composer Tamar-kali as claimed.

Source: The Guardian

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