Agnes Hvizdalek – “Index”

Released on Nakama Records and due out February 27th 2017 is Agnes Hvizdalek’s album “Index”. Agnes Hvizdalek originates from Vienna’s experimental music scene and has been based in Oslo since 2008. She has become internationally known for her abstract vocal music that celebrates her fascination for yet undiscovered vocal sounds. Always exploring new horizons, Hvizdalek has engaged in numerous cross-disciplinary collaborations merging voice and visual/performance art, dance, theatre, film & writing.

“Index” is a forty seven minute piece that explores the sonic possibilities of the human voice beyond the limits of the yet known. It can be seen as an abstract of Agnes Hvizdalek’s 10 year-long experimental music practice and systematic research. With its high sense of form and structure it can be read as a book of references to contemporary and electronic music as well as a kind of meta-alphabetical catalogue of verbal communication’s smallest building blocks: a list of content, or depending on the point of view, a blacklist.

Nakama Records is a Norwegian label for ground breaking, alternative music. Founded by double bass player Christian Meaas Svendsen in 2015, the label gathers an artist collective around the expansive Nakama band, releasing selected projects of the collective and its members. The Japanese term Nakama (仲間) can be translated as “peer” or “comrade”, reflecting the philosophy of a non-hierarchic label with respect for each member’s musical agenda, but with a common goal to feed the world with new music.

“Index” is an album of pure vocal sounds that oscillate between fragility and levity, in the most well-shaped musical manner, interwoven with, and set in contrast to the buzz of the city sounds and the building acoustics. There are soaring highs and thumping lows. But, the question I am asking myself is; is it sound poetry?

There are times where the one-track forty seven minute piece sounds like poetry, in the loosest sense – but then Hvizdalek starts to …. *anti-sing.* This is abstract vocal music & I love it.

The piece is recorded at the bottom of a 60 meter high chimney of the ancient factory “Casa das Caldeiras” in the heart of the city with the world’s largest helicopter fleet, in São Paulo during a residency July 2016. Documenting a unique moment in time and space, through her voice we follow Agnes Hvizdalek on a consequent path from intimate breaths and clicks to powerful echoing overtones and multiphonics. The lonesome voice is confronted and melded together with the macro-soundscape of city noises and other background sounds such as construction workers’ radios, ambient activity within the factory, and helicopters flying overhead; reminding us of the thin line between the public and private.

The title Index emerged from a profound dialogue with typographer and graphic designer of the cover, Ellmer Stefan (ellmerstefan.net), who has taken careful considerations of all aspects of Agnes Hvizdalek’s music, its origin, the time and space where it developed and where it’s going, semiotic references, potential connotations and iconography. As a Web & Graphic designer myself, how would I go about scoring this work? A question I keep returning to when I am faced with these reviews. This one-track album has me stumped.

Linguistically Hvizdalek out performs all of her peers. She has invented her own language to sing to the world – not finding a common language after the fall of Babel she finds solace soaring through this album, only to come back down to earth after the rendition. The imprint of Agnes Hvizdalek’s index finger points out the thin line we walk between privacy and publicity – and becomes a brutal yet friendly symbol of our time.

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