Boomkat Product Review:
Sounding like Caterina Barbieri covering Wendy Carlos's gamechanging "A Clockwork Orange" OST, Berlin-based artist Maya Shenfeld's debut is a thoughtful, gorgeous expression of limber synth technique and advanced compositional skill.
Shenfeld's musical background is diverse: she's played in punk bands, composed for new music ensembles and worked in a fine art context. On "In Free Fall" she attempts to distill her experiences into a coherent whole, and does so while taking thematic cues from German artist and theorist Hito Steyerl, whose work is referenced in the title. Shenfeld originally trained as a classical guitarist and studied composition before having her horizons expanded by punk and improv. More recently, she studied with Italian modular whizz Caterina Barbieri, whose influence looms large in Shenfeld's harmonious synth-led compositions.
Opener 'Cataphora' was written while Shenfeld was in residency with Barbieri, and features Kelly O'Donohue playing brass, which is processed slowly and thoughtfully until it becomes unclear where the brass ends and the synth begins. Emptyset's James Ginzburg appears on 'Mountain Larkspur', and the two flex their engineering muscle sculpting recordings from Bethanien Youth Choir recorded in an abandoned swimming pool. It's reverberating, gaseous vocal ambience that sounds like Arvo Pärt orchestrating with Grouper and Biosphere.
Elsewhere, Shenfeld dusts away some of the grit on the confidently clean 'Sadder Than Water', a track that plods with a baroque sense of timing and structure. This evocative mix of old and new isn't a million miles from Wendy Carlos's Moog-led "Switched on Bach" recordings, but Shenfeld expresses a more contemporary sense of doom that's fully in-line with her heady influences.