Madelyn Byrd's excellent Mappa debut is inspired by Donna Haraway's enduring ecofeminist theories, highlighting the beauty that lies between the artificial and natural worlds, using subtle-but-complex synthesis, instrumental elements and eloquent environmental recordings. RIYL West Mineral, claire rousay, Félicia Atkinson, Jan Jelinek.
Byrd is pragmatic about technological progress. Rather than see it as a threat, they view synthetic life as an extension of biological ecosystems, and their music follows this core philosophy. 'Worlding with Earth' de-emphasises the perceived hierarchy of acoustic and synthetic sounds, intertwining them to generate something holistic that's aware of its surroundings but gloriously forward-thinking. Byrd doesn't constrain themself to a particular genre; while their sounds can be lumped in with the post-Jelinek sprawl of after-hours neo-ambient psychedelia, there are crafty deviations that nudge them into new territory. A sparky, hi-BPM rhythm helps propel 'Phantom Memories, Iambic Limbs', one of the album's early highlights. And although the beats whirr with the breakneck speed of yr average singeli cut, they seem to hover weightlessly over the track's delicate gauze of warm, billowing pads and hypnotic vocal loops. The kick drum never comes, no matter how much it's teased, replaced instead with lysergic, garbled FX and hollow snares.
Elsewhere, on 'Relief Forged on Ancient Plateaus', the Berlin-based artist lets crackling sounds grow from glassy, Bola-esque pads, eventually using faint, choral voices to bring the track back down to the soil. On 'Soft Montage of Hypotactic Logic', Byrd splices chirpy dialog samples ("what am I?") into soupy sonics, building a virtual eco-dome out of frittered jazz drums, bleepy toy synths and hissing field recordings. At times, their ideas rub up against those of label-mate Atte Elias Kantonen, but where Kantonen prefers to exist in a realm of pure fantasy, Byrd prioritizes a proposed reality that's in harmony with its surroundings. Their environment teems with life - both robotic and biological - and there's no trace of doom in their forecast. For example, 'Playfully Rendered' sounds positively utopian as it weaves airlock hisses and whirs into animated field recordings and tranquil electronic stabs.
'Sporadic Dawning' is even more convincing, centered around a lolloping beat assembled from gamelan-like pans and watery, 'SAW II'-style pulses. Tiny, electrified harp sounds and artificial flutes help fashion an unlikely paradise that's a few leagues away from our own world. It's a refreshing outlook, filled with hope and full of ideas.
Composed, recorded and mixed by Madelyn Byrd (Slowfoam)
Recorded in London and Berlin in 2022 and 2023, with field recordings from Croatia, in 2020
Saxophone and Accompaniment by Sarah Allada
Mastered by Adam Badí Donoval
Cover art by Johanna Bath
Layout and text by Basia Strzeżek
Words by Tristan Bath
Photography by Zoltan Czakó
Released by mappa as MAP041 in 2023