Boomkat Product Review:
Jack Sheen follows last year's 'Solo For Cello' with an hour-long composition made from breathy vocals, whistles, footsteps and sizzled, saturated recordings of silence.
Domestic choral music, anyone? Sheen trips the choir to its barest bones, instructing his ensemble to reduce their voices to a near whisper to bring out intense imperfections. He instructed each singer to mumble or hum instead of projecting their voice, having them pace around a room - "a celebration of vacancy" no less - and hand over recordings of domestic silence that he wove into the composition. It's a tough one to accurately explain, but Sheen's finished piece moves with the momentum of vintage choral music, but retains little of the character. The harmonies you might expect to hear are still there, lapping around the edges, but the sound is muted and distorted to an uncomfortable degree. When singing at such a profoundly low level, the voice cracks and distorts, tweezing the pitch so it wavers apprehensively. Sheen traps these moments of unease and focuses his piece on their naked intimacy - at times it sounds like a boiling kettle, or a distant swarm of bees.
Obsessively sculpted, the composition hums with gravid emotion. The fizzing white noise adds another level of tension, and Sheen is careful with his pacing, introducing it and chopping it away to create pressure that's never fully released. We're reminded of Robert Ashley's delicate and exquisite 'Automatic Writing', itself assembled from whispers and nervous tics - Sheen's approach is less cloistered but no less affecting, reminding us of the beauty of choral music without succumbing to any of its bombastic pomposity.