Album Review: Infected with Extended Empathy | Guinevere Q
I’ll start this post with a question. Who ever heard of a sound-based film? Back in the late 50’-60’s, before the appearance of television, the national Greek radio was broadcasting theatrical plays and series of many genres, from Drama to Crime shows. Not far from what the Sanctum is covering today. Even though Guinevere Q makes experimental music, her latest offering titled ‘Infected With Extended Empathy’ seems to be coming from the future and promises to entertain its audience in a whole new way. Without further ado…
‘Ivy’ sends us into a multi-layered digital world where a futuristic orchestra plays deconstructed melodies in magnificent coordination. Romantic bass, glitch sounds and the artist's chopped vocals make for a sci-fi jazz jam to lose yourself in. It's at least admirable how Q makes everything work together so well, considering the several elements combined. The track introduces the story of an alien spaceship getting stuck underwater after landing into our ocean, sending chemical SOS signals. This communication is manifested through 'Underwater Spaceship SOS', a confusing piece resembling the complication of such an attempt, which ends up being successful: 'We must increase your empathy, communicating chemically, we come in peace, we plan to leave'. Here we are presented with the concept of a phenomenon called 'Extended Empathy', caused by the alien transmission.
Under this circumstance, there happens to be an interconnectedness with all life and forces, a power that forces the frightened authorities to put the area under quarantine. Ringing any bells? So close to reality yet so far away. Our protagonist, Ivy, makes their entrance as a non-binary, recovering addict who found shelter in Donna Lee's home. The latter is a scientist grieving her lost son who - in a way- she ends up replacing with Ivy as the two investigate the strange phenomenon. The bond between the two is sealed in ‘Who’s there' which gives a generous amount of dialogue, making the album feel more of a palpable narrative rather than a musical experience. Still, the electronic-driven instrumental is present, with fast paced percussion and bright synths setting the ground for this wondrous 'movie' to unfold. At this point I'm thinking that this might be the most innovating LP the Sanctum has covered and it definitely brings many conversations about experimental music to the table.
In 'Falling Up' we witness Ivy recognizing how humanity can benefit from this new-found power and so, in 'Donna Lee's Letter', the listener is explicitly informed on the phenomenon over abstract soundscapes: 'All of humanity is deeply, physically and emotionally interconnected to organic matter, plants, animals, all energy'. Ivy sounds overwhelmed by their enhanced senses, as they try to broadcast this message of change to the world with the help of Donna Lee. All this is happening over a number of uncomfortably interchanging melodies, ending up with Ivy being captured by the military. The following 'Squirrelly Bird Special' is the first organic-flavoured entry consisted of trumpets, distorted violins and emotion given in vocal fragments. The break-beat-styled percussion and ‘lounge’ quality of it feels heart-warming and regenerating in the middle of this unreal, horrific set of events. A pause before we move on to ‘Get Outta My Head With That’.
An ethereal, operatic opening, together with –what sounds like- machines beeping, transfers us to a hospital were Ivy now opens their eyes and sees Donna disguised as a nurse. It feels as if Ivy is in a state of semi-narcosis, floating between the world of dreams and the real one. Ivy’s there in order to be treated with ‘Ego Regrow’ an experimental treatment used to take down this divine connection between everything and increase the patient’s productivity. Meaning the standard capitalism which is not at all fictional! Now, the moment Donna tries to break Ivy out, the former’s sensing the Extended Empathy climaxing inside her and Ivy uses her to finally broadcast her message to everyone. The thunderous kick of ‘Now’ is preparing the listener for a suspenseful ending to this story, with our main cast having spread the word of how Extended Empathy is harmful to the few leaders for they lose control over humanity. A glorious moment of awakening. The closing ‘Am I Important Now’ sets itself away from the story as a satiric monologue speaking of a person’s role in today’s society and the obsolete standards they are called to satisfy.
All in all, wow! Guinevere Q created a body of work that exists extremely far from the ordinary. ‘Infected With Extended Empathy’ is an album that loses points if treated like just another piece of experimental music, but triumphs when received as an avant garde sci-fi film, exclusively made of sound. Not only the concept is brilliant, but it’s also wonderfully strange how the instrumental confusion and anxiety was put together methodically in order for the story to unfold naturally. As said earlier, this is a one-of-a-kind experience that brings many conversations about experimental music to the table and the Sanctum is only proud to be presenting it. Let's hope for more pieces as thoughful and unconventional as this to be released into the world. Have a nice week!
Enjoy ‘Infected With Extended Empathy’ here: