Small Tremble in Slow Motion is an album, an oracle deck and a full length video: a multi-media project born of an artist residency, soon to be unveiled to a wider audience. The subject is the effect of grief as it relates to the human body, reflected through spoken word and electronics, a direct first half giving way to an impressionistic second.
Your legs drop down. Subtle. You place yourself. You are here now. The opening words lodge the body in space and time: a guided meditation, little thought of any trauma to come. The feeling of calm evaporates in the attack of the second track, a caustic burst giving way to electronically manipulated voice. The soul is unmoored from the body, thought from touch. As a single voice fractures into multiple narrations, the sense of self is lost. The tongue refracts like splintered light, drifting into the cosmos.
“A cycle of bitterness” calls the attention back; one might call this the heart of the set, the most direct admission of vulnerability. My grief is a cycle of bitterness now; I end up in the same place again and again. Maybe I never left. Chimes ring softly in the mournful background. The piece expends its energy in under two minutes, then returns to bed. “The shape of my body” seems disembodied, despite lamenting “the heaviness of bone.” Is there a way out of this cycle?
“Light initiated from the center” is a salve, a second speaker intoning, “You’re doing the best you can. You are lighting up the hallways. You are carving a path.” Now the oracle cards begin to make sense. Exhalation is mentioned for the first time since the start, now linked to, rather than separate from distortion. Sally Decker and Briana Marela establish dialogues of thought and response, words and tone. Then just as quickly as they establish this pattern, they break it.
The second half of the album is the title track, a 16:16 improvisational foray in which the music becomes more important than the words, the words more texture than exposition. The earlier feeling of isolation gives way to a shared empathy. Voices are stuttered, stretched, layered and looped. The electronics veer between soothing tones and light abrasion, reflecting the internal conflict. Singing appears halfway through, though the words are rounded off at the edges, less important than the tone, landing between query and wonder. Intimations of chimes reappear, along with watery sounds that connote forward movement.
The cover image lends itself to interpretation: the contrail seems to emanate from the hand, although the hand may have skimmed the cloud. Either way, the image yields a sense of the physical yearning for the spiritual, body transcending form. Decker and Marela provide no concluding statement, but a realigned trajectory: a path through grief to a greater beyond. (Richard Allen)