MIA ZABELKA: M (Monotype Records)


Posted on Nov 30th 2011 01:35 am

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Mia Zabelka: M

Monotype Records 2011
07 Tracks. 59mins46secs

It couldn’t be simpler: one letter, one performer, one instrument, and a battery of effects and electronics. Yet, M is anything but a simple and straightforward record.

Hailing from Vienna, and currently residing in the south eastern Austrian province of Styria where she founded the Klang.haus, a centre for sound and interdisciplinary arts in 2007, Mia Zabelka is an experimental violinist who has performed all over the world. A classically-trained musician and composer who has since developed a style all of her own for which she combines electric violin, voice and electronics. She has won the Prix Ars Electronica no less than three times, regularly performs as part of One.Night.Band, a loose collective she founded with experimental multi-instrumentist and composer Zahra Mani in 2002, and has released a number of solo and collaborative works on a variety of labels.

Published on the decidedly excellent Monotype Records, M was entirely composed and performed by Zabelka. Using the electric violin as her sole instrument, she builds incredibly intricate sonic landscapes from loops, upon which she adds textures, some sourced from her instrument, others from her body, and occasional vocal components to create a particularly dense and absorbing soundtrack. The treatment applied onto her instrument varies greatly, from moments where the violin is left pretty much untouched to sequences where Zabelka layers distorted or saturated sounds into extremely complex sound structures.

On the opening piece, Koerperklangmaschine, Zabelka loops a series of plucked sounds into delicate melodic structures which, at first, appear extremely stripped down and simple, but as more loops and delays are applied, become more complex and enigmatic, until she swaps plucked for bowed strings toward the end. At the other end of the record, Roter Halbmond forms from repetitive stabs of strummed strings which serve as the basis for textural components and progressive bowed components to develop, until these eventually disintegrate in a clatter of noises.

This layering process is applied in quite a very different way on the rather more sombre Malstrom or Adil’ Iu later on. On the former, Zabelka slowly builds up a dense drone-like formation from bowed strings until its outer appearance becomes less defined. The process is hazier on the latter as fragments of melodies try to pierce the wall of sound which floats in the back as Zabelka places all sorts of vocal scraps in the foreground, some vaguely resembling human language, others sounding much more animal and primal.

Zabelka’s approach to the human voice is at times reminiscent of Sisdel Endresen or Maja Ratkje, as she uses it more as an instrument from which a wide range of weird and wonderful sounds can be extracted, rather than as a simple mean of communication. Mind Scratching is a striking example of this as she abandons the violin entirely to assemble a rather intriguing piece during which her voice is applied in so many tones and functions that it ends up sounding like multiple alien conversations.

Elsewhere, the violin is tortured, distorted and dissected into myriads of sonic components as the intense electro-acoustic exercise on Tenebrae veers off away from melody entirely. Earlier though, it is a completely opposite approach which informs the haunting Opus M as Zabelka dispenses sparse fragments of melody which, whilst incomplete, develop into particularly touching sequences.

With M, Mia Zabelka not only pushes into particularly exquisite sonic experimentation with her violin, but her use of her body, her instrument as an object, and her voice give this record a totally different dimension. At times dreamy, at others disturbing, M is above all a particularly vibrant masterpiece of experimental music.


Mia Zabelka | Monotype Records

M – generative visuals set from mia makela on Vimeo.

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