Maria BC’s new album Spike Field takes its name from suggested physical markers that would indicate where nuclear waste had been buried such as the ‘Spike Field’, a series of large spikes emerging from the ground over the site symbolically representing the dangerous or poisoned land. Maria BC has taken this concept to explore “the conflicting nature of wanting to both kill and honour our past” and they say “I had a very strong tendency to want to destroy any previous version of me. I wanted to erase the memories of anyone who knew me more than a year ago. It’s the effect of shame.”
The tracks on the album have an inherent stillness, like floating on a river and watching the view change, even though the poetry of the lyrics are a gentle examination of “the thread of miscommunication, or the failure of words”. On a track like ‘Watcher’ lines like “I held my peace / far too long” are exhaled in their tremulous voice over the gentle rotation of guitar and beatific layers of harmonies.
The looseness of the arrangements allows the guitar and piano playing at the core of this album to be bathed in electronic soundscapes and effects; similar to the way water breaks up a reflection, recognisable but changed. On ‘Haruspex’ (someone in ancient Rome who divines the future and talks to the Gods through inspecting entrails) the kernel of folk that sits at the heart of Maria BC’s music features the single warping clang of a guitar string and a backwards loop that causing the ear to be pulled in two directions. ‘Tied’ has a cinematic quality in its syncopation and a mercurial arrangement that never quite resolves to the root. It also features the amazing cello playing of Mizu (formally known as Issei Herr and reviewed on Joyzine back in April), and Maria BC has also featured on their track ‘Aveu’.
The more experimental sounds and arrangements wrap around the remarkable beauty of the songs that are at the heart of Spike Field. There is a scuffed-up quality to the album, but it’s applied with fine grain sandpaper, not coarse. It deserves your full attention, and I would advise setting aside some time to savour the poetry of its music and meaning.
The album is released through Sacred Bones Records.
Review by Paul F Cook