New Album: Solo Throat

First solo release from vocalist, movement artist and composer Elaine Mitchener, whose work encompasses improvisation, contemporary music theatre and performance art. Solo Throat draws on the work of African-American and African-Caribbean poets Kamau Brathwaite, Aimé Césaire, Una Marson and N. H. Pritchard as source material for twelve new vocal compositions.

Elaine Mitchener is a veteran of vocal expression in the global Black Avant Garde, traversing free improvisation, cross-disciplinary music theatre and contemporary composition with clarity and joy. Most recently, Mitchener has been improvising and composing with the written word as source material – challenging classical ensembles with her piece (“the/e so/ou/nd be/t/ween”), and commissioning composers Matana Roberts, Jason Yarde and George Lewis to respond to the work of Sylvia Wynter (“On Being Human as Praxis”, Donaueschinger Musiktage, 2020). Her performance of Umbra poet N.H Pritchard’s text FR/OG at OTO in 2021 was a revelation – a solo vocal recasting of the powerful visual-material form that Pritchard uses to disrupt semantic ‘sense’.

Building on this performance, Solo Throat takes the work of Pritchard alongside poets Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Aimé Césaire and Una Marson as its source material. Its compositions are a loose translation – a carrying from text to voice which holds multiplicity and celebrates the transformative power of literary possibility. Surrendered to the spacing and repetition of consonants and vowels, Michener’s exceptional phonetic freedom gives rise to a sensuous experience which intensifies the roles of rhythm, timbre and breath in expressing meaning.

Solo Throat comes together as much through difference as similarity. Mitchener’s own solo improvisations sit alongside the work of Brathwaite, Césaire, Marson and Pritchard, forming a constellation of unlikely alignments which make no aesthetic conclusion. Instead, Solo Throat is a site of encounter, an irreducibly plural de-composition of words into a heterogeneous assemblage of sounds and impulses, emphasising what Anthony Reed calls, “the play on and the surplus of margins of lyrical translation to resituate other pathways of expression”. Just as the poets cited use white space to complicate our act of reading, so Mitchener utilises silence and multiphonics to complicate the act of voicing and the way we listen.

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Elaine Mitchener is a British Afro-Caribbean vocalist, movement artist and composer working between contemporary/experimental new music, free improvisation and visual art. She is currently a Wigmore Hall Associate Artist; was a DAAD Artist-in-Berlin Fellow (2022) and was an exhibiting artist in the British Art Show 9 (2021-22). In February 2022 Mitchener was awarded an MBE for Services to Music. Her regular collaborators include: composers George E Lewis, Jennifer Walshe, and Tansy Davies; visual artists Sonia Boyce, Christian Marclay and The Otolith Group; chamber ensembles Apartment House, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble MAM, Ensemble Klang, and Klangforum Wien; choreographer Dam van Huynh’s company; and experimental musicians such as Moor Mother, Loré Lixenberg, Pat Thomas, Jason Yarde, Neil Charles and David Toop.

Recorded and engineered by Sean Woodlock at Hackney Road Studios
Mastered by Sean McCann
Layout by Jeroen Wille
All music and artwork by Elaine Mitchener

Tracklisting:

A1 – the sleepening (0:33)
A2 – invisible bodies (2:10)
A3 – unknown tongue (5:53)
A4 – black mantle (1:25)
(text from ‘Interlude’, Towards the Stars – Una Marson)
A5 – black mantle II (1:26)
(text from ‘Interlude’, Towards the Stars – Una Marson)
A6 – gyre’s galax (2:56)
(text from ‘Gyre’s Galax’, The Matrix – N. H. Pritchard)

B1 – stretchedwoundspeaks (5:55)
(text from ‘(i) Libation’, ‘(ii) The Making of the Drum’, ‘(v) The Gong-Gong’, Masks – Kamau Brathwaite)
B2 – rush hush (4:16)
(text from ‘The Voice’, The Matrix, N. H. Pritchard)
B3 – their naked descent (2:42)
(text from ‘When in the Heat of the Day’, Solar Throat Slashed – Aimé Césaire)
B4 – spittle (1:08)
(text from ‘When in the Heat of the Day’, Solar Throat Slashed – Aimé Césaire)
B5 – tender as fly agaric (0:31)
(text from ‘When in the Heat of the Day’, Solar Throat Slashed – Aimé Césaire)
B6 – slli (1:54)
(text from ‘VIA’, Eecchhooeess – N. H. Pritchard)


Reviews

Mitchener’s greatest strength on the album is her ability to say a lot with very little. She reminds us that poetry is not just words, it is something to feel deep within the body.The Quietus

unknown tongue might be the most impressive piece of all. Multitracking her vocals, she conjures up a drama of communication beyond language: her two characters seem to meet, argue, scheme, get frustrated, hit an impasse, muddle through, and finally begin to play and harmonise with each other.” The Wire

“I wasn’t prepared for the remarkable focus, ingenuity, and invention behind her incredible new album Solo Throat (Otoroku), in which her vast oeuvre of extended techniques, literary inspiration, and improvisational thinking come together into something far more profound and jaw-dropping than the sum of its parts.” petermargasak