Fiona Soe Paing: Tower of Babel – album review

Fiona Soe Paing: Tower of Babel (Black Lantern Records)
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It may be a short EP, but Fiona Foe Paing’s Tower of Babel has no shortage of interesting sounds and ideas. Louder Than War’s David Marren takes a listen.

This innovative electronica led EP from Aberdeenshire based singer Fiona Soe Paing is the fruition of an idea she has been pursuing for the last five years. Inhabiting the same territory as other big game players such as Memory Tapes, Four Tet and Fever Ray, Soe Paing incorporates many of the skills and nuances these acts favour-eschewing both standard song structures in favour of something more mercurial alongside distorted vocals – but also adding something wholly unique.

Whilst these other acts use distortion of vocals to create atmosphere and sonic dissonance, Soe Paing also uses elements of traditional Burmese in her lyrics thus endowing her work with a certain warmth which neatly juxtaposes against the pristine chill of the electronically driven sonic soundscapes . It is a technique which more than pays off on ‘Tower of Babel’ and proves she was right to pursue her vision and clear cut agenda creating a terrain which is starkly minimal yet lushly layered, eerily haunting yet evocatively sensuous and simplistic in outlook yet complex in execution.

The opening track ‘Daymoon Sun’ starts off like a slowed down version of that minimal, electronic classic, the seminal ‘Warm Leatherette’ by Daniel Miller’s late seventies project, The Normal. Unlike that standard which pulsated throughout with little change from beginning to end, Soe Paing adds a sonic backdrop which builds up with whooshings, whirrings and handclaps to create an intricate yet simple weaving of sounds which collide and bounce neatly off each other whilst her vocals and language create another instrumental tool which carries the melody.

 

The title track is up next and adds a crunching sound to the mix whilst an insistent droning meanders beneath a dark nursery rhyme chant. The whole thing nearly disintegrates under a malfunctioning morse code machine caught in a blizzard before pulling itself neatly together only to beautifully fall apart again.

The final track ‘Behrot’ is a much more melancholic affair with a soothing wash of sound and a cradling vocal which creates something unique which is simultaneously comforting and disorientating.

Although only housing three tracks it is clear that this is only the beginning of Soe Paing’s missive. Having witnessed her in a live situation several months’ back- an astounding performance by the way- I already know she has several other tricks in her bag just waiting to be pulled out. Currently in the studio recording more tracks and preparing for gigs early next spring, Fiona Soe Paing is definitely a name to watch out for in 2013. Until then this EP will simply have to suffice.

You can find Fiona Soe Paing on Facebook. Check out the EP at her Soundcloud page and at her Bandcamp page.

All words by David Marren. More writing by David on Louder Than War can be found here. He also has a website he’d like you to check out called The Quotidian Times.

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