Boomkat Product Review:
This one's a lot but bear with us! Four-and-a-half-hours of sketchbook style cut-and-paste creations that sit at the intersection of Broadcast, Lolina, Fonal, Mark Leckey, Dean Blunt, Félicia Atkinson and Mica Levi. Stroom has properly outdone itself with this one - huge recommendation, with an emphasis on huge.
When we got sent this we were a little apprehensive. At 110 tracks and four-and-a-half-hours it's not for the faint of heart, but a few tracks in and you honestly can't help but stay for the duration; we're not gonna lie, we've listened all the way through more than once. The ambitious project was initially conceived with the intention of being broadcast as a radio show; main collaborators Noa Kurzweil and Levi Lanser sent the tracks to Stroom over a three year period and as the project grew, the label realized it had its first official digital-only release on its hands. And what better way to (ab?)use the digital format than cram it with tracks that freewheel from 25 second voice note meanderings to lengthy eight-minute ambient jams? Somehow, it's completely coherent too.
Good luck combing Google for any mention of Voice Actor, but a quick sleuthing session offers some clues about Kurzweil and Lanser. Kurzweil used to record under the name Supertalented, and lent her deadpan vocals to a handful of sketchy Cocorosie-esque lo-fi folk tracks that share stylistic roots with the material on "Sent From My Telephone". Lanser meanwhile has been involved in a number of projects, most visibly working under the name Luddites with Bloeme van Bon, and recording a series of mystical and noisy ambient-cum-musique concréte releases. All of this helps unpick such a voluminous patchwork of ideas, inspirations and idiosyncrasies. The anchor throughout is Kurzweil's voice that becomes a book-on-tape guide thru a heat haze of crackly noise, fractured beats, lysergic loops and delirious ambient-not-ambient textures.
The album begins in crackly repetition, with a crisped orchestral snippet stuttering like a stuck record in a Dadaist movie beneath rudimentary beatbox smacks, glassy FM pongs and half-remembered dreamworld poetry. 'Another Day' sounds like Broadcast's most esoteric offerings - think "Microtronics" - and 'Badman' is intimate and dissociated at once, a slovenly pulse of choppy boom bap echoes and opium Americana. But it's when we reach 'Battling Dust' that we start to peer into Voice Actor's 360 degree landscape: here's a track that juxtaposes the brittle, nostalgic romance of early Boards of Canada ("Twoism" particularly) with smoky gallic sexiness and the kinetic, polyrhythmic bump of Chicago footwork. Kurzweil and Lanser's hybridization process feels as natural and inquisitive as Leila's blue sky realness on "Courtesy of Thought", or Tricky's internalized pressure in the shadow of the '90s neolib creep on "Maxinquaye" and its followups.
Subsequent tracks rise and fall like corks bobbing in a bathtub, never being shy about their influences and allowing the vulnerability to inform a loose narrative that feels contemporary, yet dissociated. 'But' is a microscopic snippet of baroque Autotuned cloud rap, 'Calculated Reactive Space' is Ferraro-esque vapor/mallwave, 'Carefully' is best compared with Rat Heart's damaged flop-era blues, 'Daydream' is kaleidoscopic screwed 'n chopped Luboš Fišer, 'Give Me Tracks' is parallel universe Mica Levi, 'Greyout' is k-hole memories of the Berghain dancefloor at 8am, 'I Don't Care' is Tirzah miniaturized and levitating, and 'IBU' is a fragment of reductionist drill that stands up to comparisons with Space Afrika's overlooked and brilliant "Untitled (To Describe You)" soundtrack. There's literally too much to comb through in a single writeup, but "Sent From My Telephone" never feels too lengthy, there's a reason for its existence as a stream-of-consciousness dump of abstraction and information.
Basically we get to exist for a bit in Voice Actor's world, and it's a remarkable antidote to the era of playlist-assisted, over-workshopped, algorithm-led, bite-sized artistic engagement. "Sent From My Telephone" isn't an anti-album, exactly, but it's an example of how open-ended the album concept can be when we no longer need to restrict the format in the digital age. As the rest of the world decides to chop everything down into TikTok-ready chunks, Noa Kurzweil and Levi Lanser and their mysterious collaborators have done the opposite, gifting us a long-form statement that spills out into our lives like the magic porridge pot. It's a fantasy world that we're completely besotted with - we have a feeling it's gonna be in the listening pile for a while.
So, so good.