Boomkat Product Review:
Head-spinning, previously unreleased sound art by Hungarian force of nature Katalin Ladik, exploring the relationship of sound and women’s bodies thru forms of collage, performance art, and poetry - RIYL Diamanda Galas, Teresa Winter, Annea Lockwood, László Hortobágyi
Alga Marghen’s 2nd survey of Ladik’s legacy, ‘Water Angels’ follows from the 2019 compendium ‘Phonopoetics’ with an unmissable immersion in previously unexplored regions of her music, which was just one part of a practice spanning poetry, performance art, creating and acting in her own plays and “happenings”. These set of ears slept on her ‘Phonopoetics’ LP and are now playing catch-up here to a remarkable body of work that strikes us as witty, ludicrous, and ravishingly expressive of a rich artistic life and personal philosophy. Elements of Hungarian folk, sampled classical records, and self-taught extended vocal techniques meet textual inspiration from James Joyce and Lewis Carroll, and the sounds of her first husband, composer and ethnomusicologist Ernö Király’s custom 58-string “zitherphone” in an enchanted sort of dramaturgy that reminds us to Annea Lockwood’s sensorial aesthetics as much as Teresa Winter’s avant-songcraft and the imaginary, worldly spaces evoked by Katalin’s one-time engineer László Hortobágyi, adding up to a real feast for searching and hungry listeners.
With all material salvaged from tapes and significantly improved by sound engineer Boris Kovač, we’re assured these works have never sounded better, suitably so for their first release. The A-side hosts her standout ‘Water Angel’ (1989), a wondrous 25 min work mixing her own lyrics with Lewis Carroll and Joyce’s, in a range of naif to possessed voices, over backdrop of field recordings and Király’s unique zitherphone sounds, culminating an eruption of Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’. The B-side follows her timeline to 1990’s ‘Three Orphans’, where she occupies a starker sound stage with a flux of voices, giggling, gurgling, and bewitching, and vaulting into Hungarian folksong. Finally, three 2019 compositions ‘White Bird’, ‘Ice Bird’, and ‘Electric Bird’ spanning free concrète to a carousel of gurning vocal tekkerz, and yielding her strange vitality in the modern day.