filament (Gold Bolus Recordings), the first solo album released by Petra (Kristina Warren), questions preconceived notions of the human voice through a concoction of synthesized electronics, extended vocal techniques, and field recordings. Conventions of beauty and listenability are swallowed by voltage.
The opening track, ul, immediately challenges the ear. A bleating voice enters on a single note fluctuating with oxymoronic controlled instability. Another vocal layer enters, then another. A distorted primal scream roars. Low frequencies rumble, traversing the nasal-y, the fried, and the bristley. In hi, tiny processed fragments are sped up and slowed down in micro-increments. These speckles of bite-sized, processed vocal sounds pan from left to right and back again, creating an ornate rhythmic and harmonic texture. It’s hard to imagine these noises coming from anything other than an instrument never before seen, heard, or imagined.
Though comprised of enigmatic vocal sounds, inhales, and fractions of syllables, chapel is satisfyingly toe-tappable. And although un-sing-along-able, listeners may find themselves swaying to the beat before the track applies the brakes. Slowing and slowing until a low bass sound enters to center listeners into a groove once again before the track fades out. for one is the crushing, squeezing, expelling of lungs. Nonsensical syllables dance across a melodic line before delicate sustains evolve into vocal fries. Petra is exploring the multiplicities of air manipulated–withheld and expressed, compressed and released.
eager to die is a chopped and processed electronic interlude. This track is woven together by rhythmic suspiration, scrubbing ear drums for the next half of the album. The texture simmers as it grows more complex with added electronic layers. Something’s coming. There’s a whispering in the darkness: the filament between the human voice and electricity. grace is recalibration. The hybrid human-machine runs test scans across the listener’s cochlea. Harmonizing and clashing tones move further apart, then closer together, shifting, shifting, until finally they come together merging into a singular tone for several long seconds. Ultimately, they waver, then fade to background. Everything sounds far away, mixing with field recordings of shuffling of footsteps and distant human activity.
quantum is communication through static. The human voice is being transmuted into electricity as the static squirms between high and low frequencies. The sound is now an image that cannot be deciphered no matter which way the antenna is twisted. The voice and static converge in a soft melodic humming, finding an equilibrium. In couldn’t, the static becomes an agitated buzz. The sonic whirring freely pans left and right between ears. The human voice is now indiscernible. A shadow of speech is found only in the subtle inflection of the electronic sputters.
The human voice re-emerges in a lyrical post-language in for two. Hints of words freckle the track, and ultimately “going” escapes into the texture. In the eponymous track filament, there’s sound that seems to neither begin or end–a constant, fixed and known. A soft voice hums a melody that returns throughout the track, reminding ears where this all originated: from within the human body.
With filament, Petra delivers voice as an unidentifiable instrument driving an invisible electrical current. The result demonstrates the possibilities of convergence between human and machine. The two can be connected by a thread, a conducting wire–filament. Perhaps the power of these sounds need not be measured in words, but solely in wattage.