Mia Zabelka: Myasmo

John Eyles By

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Mia Zabelka: Myasmo
Although her first album was released in 1987, Austrian violinist and vocalist Mia Zabelka has not released many recordings, Myasmo being the twenty-sixth. Despite impressive albums by groupings such as Trio Blurb, those featuring Zabelka solo stand out; so it is a pleasure to report that Myasmo is the latest addition to that select collection. For Zabelka herself it is the development of her solo album Monday Sessions (Creative Sources, 2015). Whereas that album was recorded on four Mondays in January and February 2015, at Klanghaus Untergreith, the international centre for sound art founded by Zabelka and co-director Zahra Mani in 2008, Myasmo features four tracks recorded live at gigs between November 2018 and August 2019, each in a different European location—London, Le Havre, Vienna, and Tønsberg. The tracks vary in length from eight-and-a-half minutes to eighteen-and-a-half.

Although Zabelka is credited with "compositions," she is actually a free improviser, one who describes what she does as "automatic playing"; she elaborates on that by saying, "The gestures and phrasing which are intrinsically ever-present when playing the instrument are inflated, exaggerated, transformed, de-constructed, and I succeed in finding new musical formulations through this, reaching beyond most stereotypes and clichés." The last part of that quote highlights an important difference between Zabelka and some classically-trained improvisers who can too easily fall into well-trodden pathways. By comparison, Zabelka's playing is fluid and fluent, flowing easily without any awkward pauses or jump cuts, sounding as natural as breathing. Yes, there are changes of mood but these are integrated rather than catching the listener unawares. So, one instant Zabelka can be conjuring up a low-key, mournful mood, the next soaring like a bird on the wing, carefree. Zabelka again: "Various musical genres that interest me, from classical music to free improvisation and sound art, noise, drone, ambient, punk, jazz to heavy metal, are filtered by me, through my body." Again, she walks it as she talks it, with her playing feeling eclectic and varied, but always personal to her. Free improvisation has often been referred to as spontaneous composition; in Zabelka's hands, it undoubtedly is.

The same is as true of Zabelka's vocals as of her violin playing. Being a member of Trio Blurb and, hence, having gigged and recorded with improvising vocalist Maggie Nicols, has undoubtedly affected Zabelka, as it would anyone. But, let us not forget that Zabelka has also recorded with Lydia Lunch, also a strong stylist. Nonetheless, the violinist remains her own person, not a copyist, able to go where her own musical instincts take her. In her case, the most remarkable feature of her music is that she can improvise on violin and voice simultaneously, being able to sound like two distinct individuals interacting and reacting to one another. Impressive.

In a nutshell, Myasmo is recommended to anyone with a penchant for improv, particularly on violin or voice. Those who have yet to hear Zabelka can confidently start here, as this may prove to be her best album to date.

Mia Zabelka: violin, vocals, compositions.

Track Listing

London; Le Havre; Vienna; Tønsberg.


Mia Zabelka: violin.

Mia Zabelka: violin, vocals, compositions.

Album information

Title: Myasmo | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Setola Di Maiale

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