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Viv Corringham, Rick Wilson Glimpses of Recognition Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

...a spot of ethno-goth soundscaping...

Bill Tilland 2003

Situated somewhere to the left of the polite Medievalism of Dead Can Dance, and to the right of the Diamanda Galas chamber of horrors, vocalist Viv Corringham and her instrumental partner Rick Wilson represent themselves on this CD with a thoughtful, freeform Gothic sensibility that is part mystery, part existential despair.

Lyrics are abstract and often inscrutable, but powerful images sometime fight through the verbal and instrumental haze. When Corringham asks "Is this a guiding hand, or just sinews, building bridges to muscle and bone?" (from the title piece), she evokes a bleak worldview worthy of a Thomas Hardy novel. Overt references to the gallows, damnation, shrouds and spectres are studiously avoided, which serves to eliminate the kitsch factor that trivializes so much of the Goth genre.

Corringham has an impressive mezzo soprano voice and uses electronic treatments and extended vocal techniques to good effect, yielding to excess only on "Midnight Waves," where her warbling, groaning and high register trills, together with lethargic percussion and minor key drones, brings to mind not Thomas Hardy, but the witches cavorting around the cauldron in a musical version of Macbeth. This is good fun, I suppose, and what many listeners expect from the genre, but it's ultimately a parlour game, and can't be taken seriously.

Hummable melodies are in short supply; often, lyrics seem to have come first and then set into a rudimentary and/or abstract melodic framework. This can be a problem if you're looking for the comfort and closure provided by a catchy tune, but on the other hand, the absence of easy hooks gives the music an open-ended quality, allowing the listener to concentrate on Corringham's evocative voice and on Wilson's creative use of keyboards, percussion and samples.

Instrumental highlights include the queasy synthesized string glissandos on "Swimming in Blue," the dreamy chime/gong accompaniment on "That Moment," the muted, hypnotic percussion on "Laid Bare" and "Easy," and the ominous electro-acoustic clatter on "The Last Private Sanctuary."

Corringham and Wilson's "vision" on Glimpses of Recognition is admittedly rather amorphous, and some listeners may prefer Operet, Corringham's 2001 collaboration with guitarist Peter Cusack, where her voice is featured in a more conventional Mediterranean/Middle Eastern context. However, this new recording with Wilson has its own charms. It's mostly thoughtful, subtle and emotionally compelling. It may lack a certain focus, but it is carried by its artistry and conviction.

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