The audiovisual artist’s collaboration with filmmaker Manuela Aguilar depicts a dialogue between the lonesome brutality of unforgiving terrain and the defiant strength of the human spirit.
Zoë Mc Pherson describes Abyss Elixir, their latest release for Ciarra Black’s Pendulum Recordings imprint, as “made to mend.” Eschewing collaborations, which have defined so much of their previous work, here, they drill down into a deeply emotional and personal sound, incorporating weighty low frequency with visceral warmth to craft an alien sound precision engineered to flow through flesh and bone. “The overall tracks were written for heavy sound systems that have this unique capacity to hit your heart, strongly influenced by dub music,” Mc Pherson continues. “As you make that effort to allow that space and process your wounds, it is strengthening and developing your position, while observing all that is around you, its history, what changes, as well as what needs attention to change further.” This is a process that is enacted in the audiovisual treatment of the record’s opening track ‘I Expect Nothing (Straight),’ a collaboration with filmmaker Manuela Aguilar which sees Mc Pherson performing a ritualistic dance of catharsis and healing, drawing strength from the lonesome brutality of unforgiving terrain.
The sparse textures of Mc Pherson’s soundscape are reflected back in the vast, open landscapes we witness them moving through, their spasmodic movements twitching instinctively in time with the throb and tick of the track. Just as patches of pixelated glitch mark their use of low-end distortion, their movements seem to move in phase with their surroundings, flowing to match undulating rock formations and windswept plains, or jerking in rigid sequence, as though safely channeling lethal electricity from the cables stretched overhead. In shots that evoke the defiant solitude of the opening scene of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, Mc Pherson’s physicality cuts through desolate visions of crumbled concrete and twisted metal, splitting earth-toned expanse with flashes of jet black and radioactive green. Slowly building momentum, Aguilar’s film reveals itself as both recorded healing ritual and experimental road trip, in which the artist’s internal progression and emotional landscape are projected out into the world around them.
Throughout the entirety of I Expect Nothing (Straight) the intensely charged atmosphere and joyful rebellion of dub is palpable. Here, sound systems and turntables are replaced with electricity pylons, sheer rock faces and scorched earth, the healing properties of bass weight invoked by Mc Pherson reproduced in Aguilar’s vision of the natural world. Depicted as finding solace in solitude, drawing transformative power from the earth, the artists synthesise a new kind of elixir. Laughing in the face of the abyss, Mc Pherson moves within a tense equilibrium between the crushing weight of the world and the defiant strength of the human spirit. As the final pulses of distortion and reverb echo into silence, Mc Pherson walks purposefully into the darkness, the healing ritual complete.
I Expect Nothing (Straight) Credits:
Co-Direction, Music, Performance – Zoë Mc Pherson
Co-Direction, Editing & VFX – Manuela Aguilar
Director Of Photography – Ginevra Marino
B-Roll Footage – Zoë Mc Pherson, Suzy Poling
Movement Coach – Kiki Ramos Sorvik
Styling – Konstantinos Efstathiadis
Wearing – Helena Stölting
Nails – Thams Does Claws
Gaffer / Assistant – Matias Boettner
Color Grading – Franco Palazzo
Production – Zoë Mc Pherson and Pendulum Recordings