Megan Mitchell has actually recently been working as an archivist at a medical library, cataloging audio recordings of the body doing things that the human brain just deals with passively. She’s been listening to beating hearts and wheezing lungs, clips that sound disconcerting out of context. She’s downloaded them all, and she prepares to use them as structures for her structures in the future. “Even if you’re working with the most dull subject, you’re going to stumble upon something that surprises you and reengages your intellectual fervor for whatever it is you’re handling,” she says over the phone from her home in Oakland as something metal clanks in the background.
What engages Mitchell is decay. Disambiguation, her debut album as Cruel Diagonals (premiering listed below), is a captivatingly eerie wash of speculative electronic music. Each of its radon-heavy tunes grew out of field recordings that Mitchell recorded in the Pacific Northwest, usually by “triggering the space,” banging on a rusting sheet or swiping at a metal plate. The noises that thrum through the tracks were tape-recorded in deserted environments– partly because they offer her with more interesting acoustics, partially because she got used to them growing up near a marine base in Alameda, California. On Disambiguation, noises either crawl into the mix and leave before the listener has an opportunity to guess at their origins, or they socialize to the point that focusing on anything else is impossible.
Mitchell often entwines these snippets of decay into a rhythm, but if there’s “something actually interesting tonally,” she utilizes it as a “jumping-off point” for a tune. A classically experienced vocalist, she has a crystalline voice that would not sound out of place at a midnight mass. And while she’s been “attempting discover a way to challenge myself so I don’t simply sound pretty,” she does not augment her voice here. Instead she utilizes it as a disruptive force, swirling around decreased minor secrets. Mitchell’s presence only ever makes a passage more disquieting. Dave Segal writes in the liner keeps in mind that the record “might only constitute appear a world where Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre appear on late-night TV talk programs.” However if Jimmy Fallon reanimated the dead, Mitchell’s music would still be oblique.
Disambiguation by Cruel Diagonals Lonesome, too.” Enmeshed “is practically atonally placid, briefly broken up by an insistent rhythm at the front of the mix, prior to it falls into 20 seconds of silence. The album closes with a spoken-word section that Mitchell provides cold and despairing: “I give myself/ It isn’t adequate/ Submission by omission.” Mitchell was reacting to “a severe sensation of alienation, of simply dealing with depression.” She says that she has this “removed need […] this obsession to pull away and to not be part of a larger neighborhood, because I discover it stressful.”
Even when it seems discordant, Disambiguation is searching for some sort of order. The interaction between her voice and the decay beneath it is one half-resolution. “It was my attempt at trying to understand integrating these really metal, jarring, grainy, lo-fi textures and field recordings with my voice, [and] sort of meeting in the middle” she says. That ideal props the album up thematically. In library sciences, “disambiguation” is the process used to distinguish in between two homonyms. It’s a method of defining a term (or an individual) and avoiding any confusion. In the wake of the governmental election, that became a political undertaking. “I was actually trying to focus on the disambiguation task as a non-library sciences term,” she states. “As an ability to sort out what makes good sense or what is truth,’ whatever that even means anymore, versus straight-up lies.”
Still, this isn’t a direct record. Mitchell’s lyrics are typically inaudible, and when the rhythms do come together on, say, the mottled and muted techno of “Render Arcane,” they’re quietly sinister rather than furious. “I think that, in itself, the stress that exists in the sonic components of the album are reflective of the stress that I was feeling at the time of composing it too. It’s a sense-making thing.”
This becomes part of what Mitchell explains as a “Type A compulsion to curate things.” Since graduating with a master’s degree in Library and Details Sciences from the University of Washington, she’s worked as the audio archivist for Randall Dunn (an establishing member of Masters of Bukkake as well as a producer for Sunn O))), Boris, and Earth), and she’s spent the last 3 years running Numerous Ladies, an index of over 1000 non-male musicians who produce progressive, improvised, and unconventional music. She will work on expanding her research essay about”a more fair music canonization,” arguing that archivists must “actively seek marginalized and underrepresented artists for addition in curated music collections.” Mitchell is constantly arranging, constantly remodeling and reanalyzing.It’s here that Cruel Diagonals truly intersects with Megan Mitchell the archivist. ” What strikes me as being most remarkable and intellectually appealing is that the material is limitless, best? There’s some figure out there that states we’ll never ever get through even the backlog of material we’ve developed as humankind, which need to be pretty obvious. It’s just that it’s continuous.”Are the noises she can pull out of a deserted building. It’s just a matter of listening to them properly.Follow Alex Robert Ross on