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Marianne Schuppe: Nosongs

John Eyles By

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German-born, but based in the Swiss city of Basle, Marianne Schuppe is a musician with a relatively small discography but an impressively broad musical history. She has been associated with the Wandelweiser collective for some years, and Nosongs is her second release on the label, following in the footsteps of Slow Songs (Edition Wandelweiser, 2015). On both albums she performs alone, accompanying her voice with a lute played using e-bows or (the similar) uber-bows, which produces sustained tones that could be mistaken for synthesised sine waves. On each album, the stripped-back soundscapes give the music a stark purity which focusses attention where it most deserves to be—on Schuppe's songs and voice.

Schuppe has a trained voice that, in the past, has been featured on albums of songs by Giacinto Scelsi and by Morton Feldman. Crucially, her voice does not display any of the stylised pronunciation of classically-trained singers (rolled r's and so forth) which can be a barrier to some listeners' appreciation of them; instead, Schuppe's voice has another kind of purity, that associated with folk or church singing. As a voice, it is an ideal instrument for conveying a wide range of emotions and the subtle nuances of meaning. Highly distinctive, once heard it will never be forgotten.

Despite the album title, the eleven tracks on Nosongs definitely deserve to be called songs, not least because they are sung by that voice. As on Slow Songs, the songs are comparatively short, with the longest of the eleven, "Calling," falling a bit under seven minutes and the shortest, "In," nudging two minutes. the eleven together total thirty-six minutes. Without conventional verses or choruses, the songs often recall plainsong. Sung in English, their lyrics are laden with portentous phrases ideally suited to Schuppe's voice and delivery which—aided by melodies that are varied and strong—imbues them with drama and intrigue. Given Schuppe's hint of an accent and use of drones, if these songs were to be used in blindfold listening tests, it could only be a matter of time until some unsuspecting victim asked, "Is that Nico ?" Aside from that, Schuppe is distinctively herself, without rival.

Not only are both Schuppe's Wandelweiser recordings unreservedly recommended, so too is any opportunity to see her sing these songs live in concert. She delivers.

Track Listing: The; Other; April; Calling; Any; Here; In; Fingers; With; Bederick; Still.

Personnel: Marianne Schuppe: voice, lute, uber-bows.

Title: Nosongs | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Edition Wandelweiser

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