Boomkat Product Review:
Sonically razed industrial-operatic soundscaping from Greek-American legend Diamanda Galás, who fabricates a timely ode to a Medieval plague sanctuary in Hanover. Fanged and completely singular biz as usual - tip!
In the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown, Galás masterminded a long-form project that was intended to be performed as a sound installation at Hanover's Kapellen Leperosarium. Built in 1250 and used as a quarantine for plague victims and those afflicted with leprosy, the building resonated with Galás who saw a parallel with our contemporary situation. For additional inspiration, she took text from German poet Georg Heym, who in 'Das Fieberspital' described patients suffering from yellow fever and in 'Die Dämonen der Stadt' mused on the atrocities of the First World War, from the trenches to the battlefield hospitals.
Galás assembled much of the sound on 'Mutilatus', the album's first side, between 2012 and 2013, in collaboration with engineer Kris Townes. The grinding industrial backdrop provides a shadowy bed for Heym's stark German words and Galás' operatic tones, which are offset by chiming bells, reminding us of a spiritual world beyond the physical; Galás cuts through the heaving oscillations with piano and uneven rhythmic beating, crafting a long-form journey that's chilling and constantly invigorating.
On the flipside, there's more material from Heym ('Der Blinde' and 'Der Hunger' specifically), which Galás splays beneath creaking groans and pained, scraped instruments. It's astonishing how well she's able to capture a sense of medieval dread while simultaneously digging her sound into deeply contemporary disoriented anxiety. Her fluid movement between grizzled power electronics, opera theatrics, bejeweled classicism and creaking folk is breathtaking to witness. Not an easy listen by any means, it's a visceral portrait of dread, isolation and cruelty that's an apt soundtrack to our crumbling civilization. History repeats itself.