Boomkat Product Review:
Pan Daijing's latest is an almost hour-long recording snipped from her five act opera that premiered at the Tate Modern in Autumn 2019. A blend of brassy vocals and noisy, industrial electronics, "Tissues" is the most ambitious work yet from the Berlin-based artist. RIYL Diamanda Galas, Robert Ashley, Anna Homler.
There's an ethereal quality to "Tissues", as crystal-clear voices sing expertly in a mixture of old and modern Chinese across Daijing's dense, burning noise. She uses the opera form very carefully, no doubt aware of its fringe status in experimental music circles. It's a mountain that many have tried to climb and few have conquered, outside of established legends like Robert Ashley. But Daijing shows here that she's not just competent, but literate with the form; her writing is smart and paced well, and the way she balances the libretto with her usual grind of meshed oscillators and pedal FX is an achievement on its own.
Four of the acts are here spliced together here into a continuous composition that's intended to be listened to from beginning to end. There are four singers - a counter-tenor, a soprano, a mezzo-soprano and Daijing herself - and their voices tangle in-and-out of each other, almost indistinguishable from one another. Hearing it without the visual cues from the full show adds a level of thematic complication, but there's plenty to decipher - Daijing's composition allows us to consider not just the use of the voice but the character of the voice itself. Each singer flexes their voice like rubber, displaying a humanity that's only occasionally revealed in industrial or noise music.
As "Tissues" unfurls, the vocals dissolve into guttural sounds, squeals and whines, and the searing electronics reduce down to a dull, bell-like chime. The roles are subtly reversed as Daijing draws our attention to the range of the human voice. There's a sense of calm as everything simmers to a whisper, but when the electronic elements fade away to nothing, the voices surface again - clear and in perfect harmony.