We have a very good feeling about Limerick, Ireland’s Rokaia, whose debut release seems a harbinger of things to come. See | Dwell may be a short beginning, but it’s a strong one. Like Ian William Craig, Holly Herndon and Katie Gately, Rokaia operates in the realm of textural, melodic voice, a sub-genre within the larger realm of experimental voice. The outer edge of experimentalism tests the boundaries of listenability through scream and guttural snarl, but artists such as these win us over with sheer beauty and grace.
It’s easy to put Sea | Dwell on repeat, as it comes across as a series of waves that never crash. Layer upon layer of Rokaia’s voice slide gently over their predecessors, while manipulations in the lower register provide the base. Using electronics to chop, stutter and loop her voice, the artist provides an impression of obsessive composition and precise control. On “See”, the electronics are reminiscent of sun-activated generative installations, their brightly modulated tones sparkling in the ear. First there are words, and then they are adapted, some pulled apart like taffy, others compressed like rock candy, unbearably light, finally flying like gossamer threads through an illuminated sky. “Dwell” rotates around a single, pre-modified phrase, joined by its harmonic sister until the two lose track of where one ends and the other begins.
Six months remain before these two birds are reunited with their flock. In the meantime, they have each other as company. When the full album is released, we suspect the world will discover Rokaia Jedir. We’re happy to have met her so early. (Richard Allen)