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Morris, Jeff: Hearing Voices - Human Sounds, Digital Ears

Finding a unique perspective for any musical musings is nigh on impossible these days, hence, anyone even keenly looking to push at the known boundaries of melodic moods should not only be applauded but actively encouraged. However, there’s also no denying that it can be a rocky road that is to be travelled when genuinely looking to offer a wholly individual outlook on a medium that pretty much has come close to saying everything it can and then repeating insensately what it has to convey. Jeff Morris is one such innovator and with his Hearing Voices - Human Sounds, Digital Ears album, that need to express through unconventionality is, at least, the guiding hand at the helm.

To let the man himself explain, here is the basis behind an album that I’d describe more as performance art, than pre-conceived music: “I perform with digital instruments I built that can only record and transform the sounds happening live in the moment. I give my instruments the ability to make some creative decisions on their own, and they each give me different ways to influence the performance as it goes without totally controlling it.” Which, I’m guessing means that what would appear to be a vocal only album is captured live, in the moment and then, at that exact time, Morris’s invention morphs and shapes those sounds into something different and yet intrinsically based on what was sung. In many ways it can end up with the feeling that you’re listening to a lone mad voice talking, shouting, consoling and answering itself in all manner of guises as the plaintive outburst from the lead vocaliser - at different and the same times Elisabeth Blair, Susanna Hood, Rodney Waschka II and Joseph Butch Rovan - distorts in a whole host of ways. Sometimes these ‘responses’ are mere bleeps and bloops of voice, sometimes they are bent out of shape shrill chirps and on other occasions they can be smoothly melodic meanders. Brought together it’s as though someone slowed down an old Spectrum or Commodore 64 computer game loading and discovered that the language it was using did indeed ‘converse’ with itself.

To say this is complex fare does the different, but the same, sounds that run throughout this album a disservice, and in many, if not most ways I found this entire experience to be remarkably impenetrable. I can’t call it jazz, but this is jazzy and yet I can’t call this avant-garde, although it definitely and defiantly is from the avant-garde. In all honesty, I’m not sure I can call this music, although it is… maybe… musical. What it is though is challenging, experimental and impressively different from most anything else I’ll hear for, well, goodness knows how long.

And yet, for all I admire the talent, drive and passion behind both creating the technology to bring this recording into being, and indeed, for all that I appreciate the dedication behind the vocal performances, I have to admit that I found this album hard going from its very first moment to its very last. As an exercise in innovation, Hearing Voices - Human Sounds, Digital Ears is a triumph and yet, as an album to sit and listen to, it could barely leave me less engaged.

Track Listing
1. In The Middle Of The Room
2. Definition of A
3. A Tuesday With Rodney
- Classical Form
- Ballad
- Schenkerian Blues
4. Jabberwocky - A Timbre Poem
5. Reprise (Hearing Voices)

Added: August 10th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Jeff Morris @ Ravell Records
Hits: 405
Language: english

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