Boomkat Product Review:
Gorgeous album of pulsing, beat-less urges by NYC transdisciplary artist Gavilán Rayna Russom, coming into her own with a distinguished solo debut album statement featuring the voice of Cosey Fanni Tutti and brass arrangements by downtown legend Peter Zummo. It's the second notable (if completely different) album in recent months, alongside Barker’s ‘Utility’, that keeps things fluid and propulsive while completely removing the kickdrum.
After decades exploring her sonic personality in various projects inspired by her deep immersion in NYC’s club and avant-garde scenes, Rayna uses ‘The Envoy’ as a vessel to firm up and convey her personal conclusions on intersections of gender and electronic music. Enriched with complex human experience and key influence from sci-fi writer Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel ’The Left Hand of Darkness’ - a book that strongly resonated with her due to its descriptions of an alien race with multiple sexual characteristics - the album is intended to realign misconceptions of Russom’s prescient early work such as 2005’s ‘The Days of Mars’ LP for DFA, which arguably foreshadowed a rise of beat-less and more ambiguous urges that are now commonplace in contemporary dance music, yet were at the time lumped in with retro-fetishist trends. With ‘The Envoy’ Russom returns to a 2019 music scene that’s better prepared with the politics of an emerging new world, and thus readied for her ideas to take hold in the public consciousness.
Entwining Russom’s perspectives on gender, the occult, and spirituality, and how they relate to the body and music’s healing properties, ‘The Envoy’ clearly yet ambiguously expresses the artist’s concerns in nine interrelated parts. Practically devoid of percussion, but full of body-moving polyrhythmic pattern, the pieces spill out of the lines of any typically imposed “grid”. Within this loose context, porous to the chaos of noise, Russom smudges a blend of analogue and digital synths to connote an elusive sense of self, encouraging the listener to navigate the music’s curves and silhouettes by instinct rather. Employing the fluid potential of electronic music at its most fundamental in a way that loops right back to the glyding suspense of her prized early work, even literally incorporating elements of long form solo recordings made in the late ‘90s in the wake of Russom’s psych/noise band Soma.
Unanchored by kicks, yet pulsing in its own ways, the album flows with an underlying elegance from Cosey Fanni Tutti’s spellbinding recital of Russom’s text in ‘Kemmer’, set to an organic, orgiastic writhe of arps and stressed noise, and on thru the free-floating organ scape of ‘Envoy’, to acknowledge more grimly industrial impulses with ‘Strength out of the Dark’ and also a towering highlight of the album in ‘Discipline of Presence’, where Russom’s throbbing mass is hauntingly illuminated by plangent brass arrangement from Peter Zummo (key Arthur Russell collaborator). The 10 minute ‘Winter’ then wraps it all up under a titular reference to Ursula K Le Guin’s novel, placing Russom as a filament of solo piano-playing light within the cold expanse of NYC.