‘United’ is the incredible, ambiguous solo debut of medieval and electronic music hybrids by classically trained viola player Annie Garlid as UCC Harlo. To us it sounds like a baroque take on Arthur Russell's 'World Of Echo' treated with choral riffs.
One of the most striking debuts we've heard recently, ‘United’ introduces a patently gifted composer blossoming after many years playing on other people’s records, from early music ensembles to contemporaries such as Bill Kouligas, Caterina Barbieri and Holly Herndon. In her first solo LP Garlid reconciles these opposing poles of her work without making any concessions to her art, rendering a stellar set that ties up medieval baroque, deconstructed dance music, vaulted kosmische and hauntological ambient-pop in a measured, stately and quietly breathtaking style.
Recorded over six years in Germany, the album started as sketches made during train commutes to work in a Cologne orchestra, and was later finished in Berlin. Across its 8 tracks, Garlid weaves complex contexts into beautifully refined compositions with a preternatural patience and timeless grace that’s anything but difficult to grasp for listeners with little to no knowledge of early and classical music modes.
It’s rare to hear such a diverse yet coherent collection executed quite like ‘United’. From the opening swell of viola, mixed with trickling field recordings, synth, and Garlid’s etheric vox in ‘Ceres’, it’s clear that this is a special record, a fact only reinforced as it unfolds between the subtly daring, detached treatment of J.S. Bach in ‘Bach Gamba F*ucked’, and the celestial vectors of ‘Palimpsest/Too Near’, before the gently pendulous rhythm of ‘Lyricisty of Panic’ begins to pull influence from Baroque, as much as traditional African music and Berlin kosmiche, and ambient arabesque of ‘The Secret Lives of Plankton’ extends into lush synth zones recalling Laurie Spiegel’s ‘Unseen Worlds’.
The other side only gets more intriguing, chiming in with the synthetic serenity of Maggi Payne’s ‘Crystal’ in the floating ambience of ‘June 29th (The Third Space)’, and puckering our nerves with the bittersweet intonation of ’Sumite karissimi’, her synth version of a 14th C. work by Magister Zacharias, whilst ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ drifts from choral meditation to flanged church bells with a surreal, waking dream quality, and the pulsing arps of her remarkable ‘Áve Giove’ brings the Lorenzo Senni inspiration into tangible focus, yet with that elusive, ambiguously oneiric quality that makes the whole album so subtly transfixing.