Eartheater Metalepsis

[Hausu Mountain; 2015]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: ether-net, (freak) (folk)
Others: Guardian Alien, Eric Copeland, Sleep ∞ Over, Sibylle Baier

#BeforeTwitterI. Somewhere along the way in the inky stretches of the imagination, as online worlds folded transpersonality with autocorrective 21st-century mediated subjectivity, I think self-representation meshed with the special process of metalepsis. Metalepsis is a figurative device that (as developed by narratologist Gérard Genette et al.) troubles and plays with the boundaries between narrative worlds, so that the distinction between “the world in which one tells” and “the world of which one tells” is excited, disturbed, or short-circuited.

Nowadays, we narrativize our embodiments/experiences in compulsive transcriptions via mediums (Twitter, Tumblr, etc.) that lend themselves to metaleptic self-representation with their interactive audiences, virtual realities. It’s a paradoxical medium of massively suspended belief — simultaneously transparent, impersonal, and performative — that invites invention and transgression. For the cosmic-minded Eartheater (Queens-based Alexandra Drewchin; see also: Guardian Alien), this suspension becomes a play/battleground for spacetime fabric-rending music. Metalepsis is not generally thought to apply to music, but with her debut for Hausu Mountain (disclosure: TMT writer Mukqs co-runs the label), Drewchin traces a sonic spell of post-internet consciousness-phasing with deeply earworming android folk and tesserect loops that makes all the right connections.

Many of these songs are covered in and born of the textural strains of Drewchin’s voice and electronics. Her range and delivery are elastic and piercing, delivering the message of her wordplay as world-play (here’s where I suggest Earth/eater vs. Ear/theater). The merging currents of folk songwriting and noise on Metalepsis ply at the saturated consciousness she sings throughout. In a distortion of folky nonsense verse, her vocals are often corrupted or buried in noise, garbled beyond meaning. She makes a similar play when her tongue-twisting internal rhyme is juxtaposed with evocative one-liners such that their context is destabilized. Buried in the midst is incisive viewpoint straddling, how her voice is deployed on “Put A Head In A Head” to speak sext: “Yeah, she sucks pickles/ Spits on his handle/ Make that nut milk/ Trickle down her middle/ Let that jiggle live a little.” It’s a jarring verse that bends the lines of exploitation and pleasure, further twisted as the song breaks down in screeching electronics.

The album hinges on what breaks down and what persists; its deviations and pulses are Drewchin showing her hand, the hand that puts a head inside a head. On the rolling “Youniverse,” her guitar riff cuts off into bouncing synth drums and eventually finds its way to a field recording of someone freestyling over a beatbox — wherein wind in the microphone rises like wavering walls between the worlds of the song, until it returns to a brief guitar coda. Elsewhere, oscillating noise, rhythmic and meditative, becomes electronic chant on spacey jams like “The Internet is Handmade.” These interstitial soundscapes persist throughout the album, and, along with the unpredictable and destabilizing midsong detours, make up Eartheater’s musical metalepsis, where the listener is knocked out of alignment, but still orbiting her central nervous system of sounds.

From one system to the next, I’ll have us move deeper in the album now. At 10+ minutes, “Orbit” consumes nearly a third of Metalepsis’ runtime, wrapped in a perpetually ascending near-Shephard’s tone. The song suspends time and space and patience in meditation, before dropping into the album’s most immediate and clear song, “Infinity,” a beautiful psychy Bunyan-esque guitar track (or anthem, as she urges at the end, “Lingering Big Bang/ Rev-rev-revolution/ Harness the yin of the central nervous system”). Its video is a fixed shot, a single perspective that becomes manifold, distorted, ambiguous, and (you guessed it) infinite as watery effects overtake the image of Drewchin singing dead-ahead. “What if what it is/ What it is” becomes mantra, answering itself ad infinitum. In the video’s final seconds, she lapses from the pose and breaks into smile while still in the liquid infinity: a flash of the person under the wide-eyed ether-netting, a human voice nested in and around Metalepsis’ sub-sonic exploration. It’s an affecting sample of what (yes, freak) folk music could sound like now: a guitar-string and wire-crossed tangle of noise and voice drifting in an infinite series of intimate crossings, rippling slips of listening thresholds.

For all its generic trespasses and boundary-undoing, the album does not stray far from Drewchin’s inventive guitar and hypnotic voice, which ground her far-out questions with human weight and play. If you spend as much time as I do scrolling and scrolling beyond the uncanny valley, with the self-same fingertips that open doors, Eartheater’s New Age fantasy of an album won’t feel like an unfamiliar trip, but it could breathe life into the waking, aching dream of warped un/self-consciousness. A come-up, come-down, and reality check, Metalepsis sounds the open-secret cosmic perspective lingering at the interfolds of our touch-screen imaginations, making noise enough to stir up from within from without.

Links: Eartheater - Hausu Mountain

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