Need a dose of local weirdness to break up the monotonous onslaught of bands that sound like a watered-down version of their inspirations? Try Oakland's Voicehandler. The experimental duo just released Song Cycle: You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end., which seems to experiment with how long you can make an album title before I can't fit it in the headline of my article.
[jump] Through the noise and electro-acoustic improvisation Jacob Felix Heule and Danishta Rivero (who make up Voicehandler) explore the idea of what it means to by human, according to mythology and literature. Song Cycle is inspired by various books and origin stories, with each song being based on a different text, including Knut Hamsun's Hunger (1890) and Watunna, the creation story of the Yekuana, who live along the Upper Orinoco River of Venezuela.
Song Cycle uses made instruments, created from found objects, like Rivero's Hydrophonium, an electro-acoustic percussion instrument which uses hydrophones submerged in glass jars filled with water. The hydrophones' output signals are fed into MaxMSP (a visual programming language) to tune the instrument with filters. Rivero uses a variety of techniques to create sounds with the instrument, including striking the jar with mallets (or other objects), using a straw to blow air into the water, or just singing into the jars. You can see that all in action in the video below.
Song Cycle has been a long time coming. The duo received an Individual Artist Commision grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission to compose the album in 2012, but it was just finally released on CD. Listen below.