Music Reviews

Mira Calix Skimskitta

(Warp) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

The new Mira Calix album is a melding of the organic and the electronic, wherein insect signals and tonal codas mix with wood blocks and sparse acoustic guitar. Ghosts of children's voices float through naïve, tentative piano chimes on I May Be Over There (But My Heart is Over Here). Poussoo's gentle refrain drifts gently down like dust in sunlight, while Simple (Almost Mix) sounds like baby cameras conversing. Beatific tone poems such as Do I Ever? and Two Seasons are interspersed with schizophrenic hymns (Woody) and beatific, slanted takes on the transcendent (You Open Always). Voices flicker into view a la Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin for use as organic instrumentation (Distracted2, Hiccup).

The songs appear like memories, half-remembered feelings floating to the surface from the haze of the past before dissolving into the air. They pick up interference and waves of static hum, they seem like conductors for some kind of universal transmitter, with vaguely familiar atmospheres and implacable echoes of the natural and mechanised world (like those of Matmos) drifting into view and disappearing softly before they can be grasped at and firmly held. Boards of Canada may have set the pace for this kind of innocent, regressive ambience, but while Mira Calix's music similarly feels at once otherworldly and human, her voice remains entirely her own, never overtly displaying influences or re-treading worn pathways.

The structure of many of the tracks is open and ever-changing: songs subtly evolve and drift into new patterns, melodies gently unfurl, the beats never dominate or overwhelm the fragile textures. Everything is mutable; one song merges with another, the landscape evolves, atmospheres rise and fall as you are gently led by its drift. This is an album rather than 20 songs, wherein the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.

If her first album, One on One, showed an emerging yet not fully formed aesthetic, Skimskitta reveals an artist capable and confident enough to pursue her own agenda; to coax and hypnotise the listener into entering her environment, summoning melodies that walk the line of gentle and tender fragility without becoming melancholic. Everywhere there is a sense of charming the magic from the ether.

Skimskitta exudes the quality that is evident in all great art: it creates the world anew for the listener; it transforms the view from the window; it shows you new ways of seeing; of perceiving. Melodies are spectral and transitory, beats fracture and are displaced without estranging the listener; they are oblique whilst never overwhelming the whole or detracting from its aura. This is an enchanting album of strange beauty for the magic hours; for twilight wanders; for returning home at dawn after 24 sleepless hours; for waking beside your sleeping lover, or for simply stepping back from the world and letting everything wash over you.