Taken from her third album, All Above, dedicated to the memory of legendary experimental musician and Editions Mego founder Peter Rehberg.
On ‘Human,’ a stunning assemblage of acoustic instrumentation and elegant synthesis from the Berlin-based, Dutch-Italian composer and sound designer Aimée Portioli, better known as Grand River, a restrained tension between fleeting moments of corporeal beauty and a devastating wave of synthetic sublimity pervades. Gently stuttering samples, looping vocal chatter and choral peals drift between the heart-breaking vibration of resonant piano and artist Marco Ciceri‘s imagery, heavy mist draped over the rocks around a waterfall, the sounds of unseen voices reverberating around sheer rock. Starting as little more than a flutter, the rising surge of driving bass synth begins to clear the air, the arrival of a silent, monochromatic torrent, billowing clouds of foam and spray signalling a change in the emotional tide of the track. While constantly threatening to overwhelm the fleeting mortal beauty of voice and struck string in this electronic deluge, we’re never totally submerged, never subjected to the crushing weight of the waterfall’s base, as ornate glimmers echo in the distance, the ever-present piano and ethereal haze of choirs and voice continue to swirl through the lethal current, captured as an infinitely repeating, slow motion cascade.
Taken from Portioli’s third album as Grand River, All Above, ‘Human’ is indicative of the expansive scope of the record, which sees the artist building voices, strings, organs, guitars and synthesis around acoustic piano compositions, which resonates at the heart of each. It is the emotional heft of the piano that Portioli seeks to channel throughout the record, which seeks to explore the guiding forces behind our internal drives and urges, mapping different instruments onto different moods, using arrangements to chart progression through different states of being. Drawing from her training as a linguist, this sonic vernacular is conceived as an emotional language transcendent of cultural constraints, eschewing visual metaphor and imagery for non-verbal forms of self-expression. With his visual for ‘Human,’ Marco Ciceri achieves something similar, never showing us the source of the water, instead pulling focus on the unstoppable force of the waterfall’s terminal velocity and the roiling river underneath. What we are left with is an image of natural sublimity abstracted, with Grand River’s composition ringing in our ears.
‘Human’ is taken from All Above, which arrives on February 24, 2023, via Editions Mego. The album is dedicated to the memory of legendary experimental musician and Editions Mego founder Peter Rehberg, who died suddenly last year at the age of 53.