absent origin is the latest album by multi-disciplinary artist Mira Calix via Warp Records. After periods when many things break down, new things need to be made from fragments. absent origin uses the process of collage to make sense of such fragments. Burrowed deep in rolling hills of books and magazines of her source material, Mira Calix’s studio took shape of a Scandi-Noir detectives office but in place of suspect is Calix herself cut and pasted into the artworks that circle this album. Immersing herself into the history of collage, she researched the various processes applied by artists, as well as the medium's history in relation to the 20th century and political upheaval. Every song on the album was created by applying a different collage process relating to a different visual artist, spanning the history of collage to contemporaries of the practice.
The sonic materials are subjected to a myriad of processes; layered, synthesised, constructed and assembled into electronic melodies, textures and complex, frisky dance rhythms that are constantly shifting in surprising ways. absent origin employs collage to make sense of the current moment of displaced voices, disjunction and political unrest. On mark of resistance the collage works of Hannah Wilke have been used as inspiration; Wilke’s work is known for exploring feminist issues and aesthetics which is a fitting source of power and solidarity for the first female signee to Warp. The shredding and recreating continues on silence is silver where Matisse’s later works are referenced and on Gargle (command V) Hannah Höch’s pioneering collage form techniques can be heard as Calix draws our attention back to the present chaos of politics and media. Syncopated and manipulated voices of rap, poetry and found sound jitter through like Jenga, fractions fractured factions and Gargle.
Although an album of sonic splinters, the consistent form is a stance on changing society for the better through art - an ethos she shares with her muses. Calix’s recording sessions are from all over the world are the many fragments we hear across the record; from India to Tasmania, Jordan to Belgium, China to Uganda, her former home of South Africa, to her current home in Britain. Slicing into these are further recordings of vocalists, percussionists, choirs, orchestras, quartets and soloists, never appearing in the form in which they were originally intended. The record is a polyphony of predominantly diverse female voices held together by pulsating baselines, haunting electronic sounds and orchestrated melodies and with them, we travel. As we travel, we glimpse artifacts, as if from the train window; a familiar voice, an image we once knew, but by the time we are able to focus it is long gone. The album fizzes with a political energy and the interconnectedness of everything. At this moment in time, there is an impossibility of separating one thing from another; the effect is strange and not exactly reassuring. Collage suggests infinite possibilities and each track here is a singularly unique compositional combine, a dizzying hall of mirrors with its own unlikely harmony, it’s own distinctive rhythm. On absent origin, collage becomes the tool to make sense of a present that is often anything but.