Review: Iris Garrelfs – Breathing Through Wires

Iris Garrelfs - Breathing Through Wires“It’s a bit weird up here,” Garrelfs declares to her audience during the opening of the album’s first track, which was recorded at the Montague Arms in London, 2014. “Usually I play on stage. I can’t see you; it’s even weirder.” And then, through the commotion of the chattering audience, one assuring voice pipes up from the crowd: “we’re here!”

After all, her music is thick with the evidence of spatial dialogue and spatial sensitivity. Garrelfs’ voice reaches forth like a hand probing the dark. Even as her utterances tumble through a web of delays and a mysterious, dislocating pitch modulation, she never loses the ability to react instantaneously to her surroundings; her demeanour tilts in response to micro-adjustments in mood or room temperature, with the echoes contracting and relaxing accordingly. The effects are as soft and breathable as she is – a moist, flexible extension of her body rather than a constrictive maze of electricity, twisting her image into something alien and animalistic while still, somehow, retaining a strong resemblance to the human form.

Because even without the pitch-shift to carry her voice down into goblin baritone, or the delays that subdivide her monkey caws into the rabid cries of an entire troop, Garrelfs’ gymnastic flexibility is remarkable. Her falsetto has this incredible pinball elasticity, zipping suddenly upward in playful excitement or sudden shock, reaching pitches that seem to shrink her into miniature. Meanwhile, the sounds of breath encase everything: thick rasping sighs still warm with residual body heat, crystalline whispers, hyperventilations that send her body up and down, outward and inward, flexing in respiratory ecstasy.