Anne Waldman
Oasis at Biskra [CS; Taping Policies]

Only in Cerberus do I get the opportunity to receive and review pieces of work like this one, a new collection of thoughts from renowned poet Anne Waldman, here collaborating with musicians like Daniel Carter on sax and trumpet, Thurston Moore on guitar, and more. Quick research tells us about the 69 years young Waldman’s connection to the Beat movement, her involvement with the famed School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa in Boulder, and her general passion for social change — all part of a history that led up to this harrowing new work, which is a scathing, searing critique on war and patriarchal domination that is at times cold and violent, and others oddly sensual. This is my first engagement with her art, and it’s certainly a powerful thing; not exactly your lazy Sunday, feet up cassette. Oasis at Biskra rather feels more like listening to a recent Scott Walker edition — it is an event, a performance. The tracks flow like acts of an opera, Waldman’s low-hanging jaw producing a voice that seems to fill a cavernous concert hall as “Empty Set” opens up side A with flurries of alto sax and a submerged synthetic noise slowly rising to a boil beneath, a constant threatening counter-voice to her scornful, mournful tone. The title track follows and she sneaks in closer, softer this time but infinitely more intense, tapping your ear drums from all sides with the fingers of her voice, her poetry arriving with playful rhythms and melodious musicality. Moore joins in on guitar for this one, his shrieking feedback and low-end distorted rumbles adding to the chaotic backdrop. With excellent, hyper-aware improvisational instrumental performances, a challenging lyrical underbelly delivered with all the heightened drama you’d expect as dive-bombing synths drop all around and ghostly vocals haunt in the background, plus some keen mixing and editing to further accentuate the various moods and atmospheres Waldman paints with her words, Oasis at Biskra is a goosebump-raiser through and through.


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