The third album from Mira Calix has been three years coming due to her commitments to a range of commissions and engagements for European arts bodies and institutions. Her music demands you listen with care, you need to give it your full attention. But do so and you will understand its artistry so much more, and why Calix has been in so much demand.
Mira Calix is Suffolk-dwelling South African Chantal Passamonte who makes organic sounds blend with electronic and traditional instrumentation to create technologically-advanced soundscapes. She is heavily influenced by her surroundings, for example for the track “Protean” she claims she imagined a bird-inhabited landscape, but not one she knew. So she took her recording kit into a Suffolk forest and recorded herself walking through the woods to beautiful birdsong. She then took this recording to add melodies to it, however it is effectively driven by the incidental sounds around her. You can only fully appreciate her music if you are willing to listen attentively. The silences between and within the songs matter, and the pauses in the titles matter: she says, with the album pronunciation, it’s Eyes Set (three beats/three spaces) Against the Sun. The care and thought behind this album can be heard throughout.
You can only fully appreciate her music if you are willing to listen attentively.
Opener “Because To Why” features a violin player, a local children’s choir and the subtle element of edited highlights of six hours of snow melting. Central track, the near-11 minute “The Way You Are When”, blurs what seems to be an orchestra with electric crackles, liquid spatters, a clanging scrapyard and insect chattering. A secret track features the chopped-up sounds of children singing the album title ending in a football-style chant. You could never accuse her of following a dull formula as she seems to love experimentation and avoidance of any obvious style. The quirks and surprises that lurk in each track ensure there is always something new to discover.
Eyes Set Against the Sun is an example of the diversity electronic music can be put to use to create. It is perhaps best used as the soundtrack to a ramble through a forest or lying in a sun-drenched field without a soul around. But if you don’t want to brave the winter months outside listening to this album it does not matter as it envelops you totally into Mira Calix’s hybrid of the natural and artificial. A real joy for January.