Aura is the exemplar of the human voice as instrument. While Hatis Noit often seems to be singing words, her debut album is wordless and otherwise instrument-free. A sample of the ocean near Fukushima is the only adornment. Her vocal range, applied to everything from yelps to growls to mantras, makes the album a fascinating listen, as colorful as the cover image.
We made a slew of comparisons in our 2018 eview of Illogical Dance ~ Lisa Gerrard, Katie Gately, Björk ~ but Aura offers a distinctive tone we now identify as the artist’s signature style. While influences range from Gregorian and Bulgarian chant to Gagaku and avant pop, her tone remains spiritual, the natural outgrowth of a formative experience in a Buddhist temple. Even when she toys with sound, imitating forest animals or birds, she exudes a sense of wonder. These songs might be calls to prayer, fire chants or exultations of praise. An extra layer was added when the songs were “reamplified” in a church before their final mastering, solidifying the initial association.
“Thor” references the Norse (and Marvel) legend, spilling forth with a sense of joy inherent to the character. Hatis Noit is in her element when she stretches her vocal boundaries, taking her tongue out for a test drive and gleefully heading off-road. The fact that there are multiple Hatis Noits, all singing at once, personifies Björk’s idea of an “army of me.” At the end of “Himbrini” (which refers to Iceland’s great northern diver), a series of trills descends like fireworks, or a bird narrowing its body to plunge into the sea. “Jomon” includes a vocal drum in a Japanese march.
Visually, as she did in the Matmos version of “Illogical Dance,” Hatis Noit finds a pair of perfect partners in “Angelus Novus.” Yuma Kishi and “his” A.I. blur the borders between the real and the surreal, the organic and the machine, the planned and the serendipitous. Born in Japan and now living in London, she asks, “Where does one end and the other begin?” Can we trust our eyes and ears? Is an alternate reality still a reality? The whispering at the end feels like a secret revealed, tantalizingly close yet beyond auditory reach.
The intimate “Inori” rose from an invitation to attend a memorial service in Fukushima, which coincided with the all-clear to return home. The dual nature of the event is reflected in the track, beneath which gentle waves signal calm ~ a contrast to the initial event. Across the multitracked vocals, a looped message to a loved one repeats like a transmission to the stars. Even after the album ends, the listener is reluctant to return to earth. (Richard Allen)