Review: Sewer Election + Leda – MAAR

Sewer Election + LedaI’d recommend taking a look at this photograph before you read on, which acted as the source inspiration for MAAR. It was taken by Giorgio Sommer circa 1888, and shows a dog that was killed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79BC. Like so many Pompeii inhabitants that buried under the volcano ash, the dog has been preserved in the final pose of its life: contorted in a manner both playful and grotesque, its head curling back towards the tail, legs jutting out at crooked angles. I’ve become accustomed to seeing the dead body in a pose that suggests an acceptance of the end of life, yet Sommer’s photo depicts a creature denied its fervent desire to move and to be, immortalising a battle on the brink between life and death.

These two 20-minute pieces channel this desire to shatter the bounds of eternal stillness. Dissonant organ tones press together as though trying to force themselves through one another, flickering under the damage of such prolonged and intense friction. High drones hang precariously like an anvil dangled from a horsehair, quivering under the imposition of immobility. Elsewhere, the duo scavenge for the emblems of loss and fateful decay – sounds estranged from the world of music, destined to be forgotten and forever denied the attainment of true purpose: horrible guitar ballads recorded on Dictaphones; the crumbling tones of hands plunged into dry gravel; choirs stretched into thin beams of light. Atmospheres dissipate before they can settle, urged to keep wandering until they vanish beyond the horizon of the stereo field.

I’m particularly drawn to the moments where sounds writhe upon the surface of death; old cassettes warbling and waning, or the dusty whirr of old engines amidst irreparable mechanical failure. Ungracefully, they announce their last minutes of life. The duo don’t dwell on these moments. Instead, MAAR cuts cruelly between its sections in the deliberate sabotage of linear narrative, as merciless in the destruction of soundscape as Vesuvius was in the obliteration of life.