(New Album Review) Roarke Menzies- Breath’s Length

Roarke Menzies is a New York-based composer and sound artist whose works intermix the mechanics of the body and analog and digital technology in minimalist electro-acoustic soundscapes. I delved deep into 2016’s Corporeal, and so I was excited to take a gander at his new collection Breath’s Length, released on cassette for his own label Coup de Glotte. The genesis of Breath’s Length was from an idea posited by composer Steve Reich to make the length of a human breath the “shortest measure of musical duration”; for Breath’s Length, Menzies uses his own voice and breath as the main sources for his oneiric, textural sound treatments for the four pieces herein.

When you take the time to take in Menzies’ music, you hear how he melds hardware/software with the organic close enough to make a tenuous dance. To talk about music technology is to talk about how human ability limited by breath, flesh, and bone can be amplified and sculpted into fantastic forms with the help of machines. On Breath’s Length, Menzies situates planing loops alongside his unadorned voice to make that tension clear, and perhaps to do the capabilities of audio technology justice by limiting how much he relies on it. With one foot in that of audio-installation stasis and another in older realms that often sound like sacred music, he creates a sense of wonder for a numbed world. The truly imaginative way that Menzies intermixes old feelings with modern technologies comes across best in “Elegy”, for which he utilized an autotune pedal, applying his gliding vocal drones to an electronic signal. It’s a sound for quiet rooms with towering ceilings, reassuring and pregnant with longing all at once. A quietly excellent release from a master.

As I mentioned in my post for Samson, you can catch the final leg of Roarke’s tour with Samson tonight at Beacon Sound at 8 pm tonight, tomorrow in Seattle at Wayward Music’s Chapel Performance Space at 8 pm (with Norm Chambers, aka Panabrite), and on Saturday in Vancouver, BC at Quiet City at 8 pm.

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