Friday, 23rd June 2017. 1:19:43pm ET
Reviews CD Reviews Experimental, IDM, Glitch Diamanda Galas- Defixiones : Will and Testament


Artist: Diamanda Galas
CD Title: Defixiones: Will & Testament
Label: Mute Records
Reviewer:Matthew Johnson
Date: 8/7/04

Like many of Diamanda Galas’s previous concept pieces, this two-CD song cycle stands out as a singular artistic statement of rage and sorrow at humanity’s injustice. It is also perhaps the most beautiful thing she’s ever released, melding her haunting operatic blues shouting with Mediterranean forms. Recorded during a performance at UCLA in 2001, this work is dedicated to and informed by the Greek and Armenian genocides that occurred during World War I. Accompanying herself on piano, Galas begins with the Armenian canticle “Ter Vogormia,” wailing, keening, and occasionally spitting wrathfully over minimally arranged drones and terse jabs from the piano. The desolate sound of the wind fills the auditorium as she launches into a diatribe in Arabic by Lebanese poet Adonis in “The Desert,” but the dark Middle Eastern atmospheres give way to a more explicit horror as horns buzz, drums beat, and Galas demands in English for the first time that we remember the cruelty visited on the victims of genocides in “Orders from the Dead.” A lesser artist might be accused of aiming for shock value with lines like “Our dead watched an ax remove their/Mother’s skull/And crown a wooden spit,” but as we hear the heartbreak in Galas’s voice as she reminds us that “You cannot erase the dead,” we can only feel the guilt of the complicit, even ninety years later. The second disc, though perhaps not quite as compelling as the first, sees Galas experiment with Greek rembetica, deliver “Todesfuge” in a German whisper that evokes the concentration camps far better than any Wumpscut song, and end with her signature, the traditional spiritual “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” Singing in three octaves and about a dozen languages, Galas ably demonstrates her vocal talents, and “Epistola a Los Transeuntes” demonstrates her virtuosity on the piano as well, alternating unpredictably between soft classical touches and dissonant insanity. Producer Blaise Dupuy is worthy of praise as well; his judicious use of reverbs and delays makes Galas’s already immense voice even more monstrous. Add to this a glossy hardcover package complete with lyrics and translations of all the texts from the performance, and you have perhaps the pinnacle of an already incredible career: the most haunting depiction of rape and mass murder ever recorded.

Learn more about Diamanda Galas and the so-called “minor holocaust” of Asia Minor at www.diamandagalas.com.


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