22 October 2021

Better late than never

My apologies!  I watched Meatshell (Helen seemed to pronounce it "Meet-sha", presumably Euro or Scandi) at Earshift then missed the writeup.  So I watched again and here it is.  Strange, as it was one I was particularly hanging out for: lockdown can be my excuse.  Meatshell are a duo of sax and bass/voc, very much at the experimental end of the spectrum and very fascinating to my ears.  Helen's soprano vocals with purpose "there is nothing for me here outside ... now I sit and wonder why / I don't know it's over ... I'm losing my way-y-y-y).  Lovely twiched voice with flits up to end in the style of punk and Scandinavians, propulsive and so-solid grooves from bass or floating fills from sax or bass or beautifully apt and responsive sax melodies.  They started with two songs from their album Since subito, Lost and Growing (out of nothing); then a new song Old mind.  All slapped sax keys and drones and long vocal notes.  Deeply felt and expressed vocals with sympathetic sax lines and challenging, poignant effects.  A final song, Face, had Helen singing bass put down and even more challenging vocals.  Just stunning and ear-opening and challenging to many a comfortable habit.  I am seriously blown out!  Then the chat.  FWIW, they are a couple which may influence things.  Collaborative process?  No formal process, whatever works.  The duo came together new with the first album.  That only had one tune with vocals, so Helen's singing is new.  Now she loves the singing, even happy to put down the bass.  (I think it showed on Face).  Tunes may start with a riff or an idea, then a thought, like how many ways to say something.  Then plays with abstacting forms form an original state, pulling apart the puzzle and experimenting: to "decompose" (Wayne Shorter).  Plenty of extended techniques, multiphonics, quarter tones, articulations, slaps.  They have both studied extended techniques for Masters studies in overseas; Banff and NYC got mentioned; perhaps more in Europe or Scandinavia.  They mention the influence of European folk which they heard frequently overseas.  And finding things that blend and conflict, but intentionally, of the joy and unpredictability in combined sounds; unexpected but conscious.   This performance was not much rehearsed, to save freshness and prerecroded for lighting and presentation (and followed with a celebratory pizza).  Andrew spoke of the novelty of live-to-air balancing against presentation value and the product, so needed these days.  So an interesting discussion and just a stunning performance.  Hugely impressed and much intrigued.

Meatshell are Helen Svoboda (vocals, bass) and Andrew Saragossi (tenor).  They performed for Earshift Festival.

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