Boomkat Product Review:
Following her recent contribution to Holly Herndon’s ‘Proto’ LP, Jenna Sutela’s solo debut ’nimiia vibié’ arrives on PAN; a fascinating, conceptually mindboggling and deeply trippy album containing some of the most unnerving recordings we’ve heard since Roland Kayn’s work with AI speech synthesis in the late ‘70s on ‘Simultan’, or more recently Florian Hecker’s ‘Articulação Sintetico’.
’Nimiia Vibie’ is the riveting sonic extension of her video work, ’Nimiia Cétiï’; a piece developed during her residency at Somerset House, London, where she set up and documented the interaction between a neural network, audio recordings of early Martian language, and footage of the movements of space bacteria. Effectively arriving at a consolidation of wetware and hardware, Jenna uses the computer as a shaman/conduit with the capacity to transmute light and movement into glossolalic sound, generating a new form of interspecies communication in the process.
In two parts, one hears the movement of an extremophilic bacterium, Bacillus subtilis - as found in fermented soybeans and commonly used for research in space missions - mapped by a computer, which subsequently articulates their seemingly haphazard squiggles through a Martian language channelled by French medium Hélène Smith in the nineteenth century. Still with us? The results are further interpreted by Miako Klein (Contrabass recorder) and Shin-Joo Morgantini (Flute), with sound production by Ville Haimala (Amnesia Scanner) to resemble a stream of vocaloids crawling out of the throat of some unimaginable lifeform.
From this complexity of ideas, the results can simply be defined as some of the most unnerving we’ve heard since Roland Kayn’s work with AI speech synthesis in the late ‘70s on ‘Simultan’, or more recently Florian Hecker’s ‘Articulação Sintetico’ and the interesting (non-religious) bits of Holly Herndon’s ‘Proto.’ However, Jenna really pushes beyond those examples to a point where her creation sounds neither human nor machine-like, but an alien mode of her own creation. If we’re to speculate, there’s possibly some innate connection between the fact that, hailing from Finland, Jenna’s mother tongue is part of a relatively unusual branch of language that shares more in common with Hungarian and, ultimately Persian, than the Indo-European languages we're accustomed to. Whether that matters or not, she arrives at an utterly compelling, uniquely guttural form of sound/music that's quite unlike anything we've encountered before.