The Tusks Are Looser

Audrey Chen last appeared on the Rough Tongue LP as one half of Beam Splitter. Here she is with a solo record called Runt Vigor (KARLRECORDS KR046), produced using her improvised voice actions along with cello playing and electronics. As with previous excursions, the most prominent element is the sheer alien-ness of her sound, pushing the human voice to extremes that sound downright uncomfortable. On track two, it’s all hiss, squeal, groan, gargle and moan…conveying sensations that are almost painful to hear, like a slightly less alarming version of Junko. Track three is more approachable, where the performance is grounded by a sonorous cello drone and treated plucks, and Chen’s voice does at least appear to be more at peace with the world, uttering its cryptic non-lingual phrases with all the gravity of an ancient tree-spirit who’s being stirred from sleep after 200 years.

Side two of this album is where she really stretches out her lungs and bronchial tubes, on a single 21-minute performance called ‘Heavy In The Hand’. Because of the continual background noise which sounds to me like a distant respirator machine, I can’t help hearing this as the document of a ghastly operation on the chestal area, except that the patient is still awake and is gurgling her reactions in the form of guttural grunts and gargles. The steady calm with which this experiment unfolds is all the more unsettling, as Chen’s protestations gradually evolve into extended inhuman shrieks and animalistic cries of agony. Plus there’s a shrill squealing tone about halfway through, letting us know that it’s going badly wrong and it’s time to call in the duty nurse. Talk about your tense situations…

I see from the credits that her analogue electronic setup is called “fourses”, whatever that means, and that the vinyl was mastered by Rashad Becker, assuring totally clarity and hence no escape, as you endure this painful audio art. The cover collage was made by ID M Theft Able. From 10 September 2018.