Firstly, I feel the coarse edges of STRATUM. Those deep, droning clarinet tones fizz delicately within the mist of low fidelity, deprived of smooth edges but not of guttural depth. They press into my stomach with both meditative warmth and distorted urgency. I quickly realise that Rin Larping’s approach to audio capture – forgoing the impeccable clarity of better microphones in favour of cruder, harsher alternatives – is no less attentive and deliberate for clipping edges of reproductive quality. She uses it as an intimacy; a means of pressing sounds right up against the membrane and up against my skin. The sobbing plucks of detuned guitars run like tears down my arm, and as notes are choked and buckled by the ill deeds of the fret hand, I feel her fingers like crooked spindles writhing, spider-like, over my face. Her presence is vivid and often alarming – a sensation only enhanced by the roughness of her documentation.
The music itself feels unquestionably like an isolated pursuit, babbling and humming in the tongue of someone warped by creative solitude. “SEDE” places low, throbbing clarinet drones beneath a strange, fibreglass blanket of shuffling harmony that clings to the shrillest of the high frequencies. The textures engage in unsavoury harmonic interplay, with limbs of dissonance writhing between eachother, bending in ways that they shouldn’t. “DES” reaches a second half that wriggles and moans as Lindsay Smith rubs an object (a bottle perhaps?) up and down the fretboard, like a body in mild seizure. There is a spiritual persistence here. The album’s sinister gestures seem to be carrying Smith toward an immaterial something – a place of inner truth revealing itself further with every repetition of a particular gesture. Gradually, her body slips down the microtonal cracks between looped woodwind tones, and aligns its shape to the knotted melodic modes that run through her guitar playing. She’s almost there.