Conversations used to be a lot more straightforward. A hundred years ago, you might have been expected to master two or three different tones depending on the personal or professional nature of your situation, but that was just about enough. These days, we build entirely fabricated, multifaceted personalities to exist in a digital space that promises us the chance to live idealised lives, creating characterisations that demand constant attention and stage management. We can choose to live anonymously, but we cannot choose to live without others’ anonymity, and anyone with a full online life will rarely get through a day without getting embroiled in an unwanted conversation with an unknown avatar. The very essence of conversation has been transformed and it would be hard to argue that the change has been overwhelmingly positive.
That is certainly the view of Rebekka Ziegler, the German-American experimental musician who records under the name Salomea. This new EP exists as part of a broader, multi-disciplinary project entitled CONVERSATIONS that takes in a set of podcasts, short films and dance pieces, all sprung from a series of actual old-fashioned, IRL conversations between female creatives from different walks of life. It was, it transpires, a healing and rewarding process, allowing the artists to explore the aspects of their lives that have been under-nourished as a result of the prejudice, alienation and superficiality of our current standards of discourse.
‘Tongues’ shows that Ziegler has a facility for creating soundscapes that at first glance slot in alongside slick, mainstream R&B, but which possess an in-built darkness that just gradually seeps out after repeated listens. This is a tale about something collective that we have lost, after all, and she does not expect listeners just to look the other way, but rather to face this problem head on with her. Ziegler sings of “Tongues spitting phrases in real time / Drenching her face in a sea of sore words”, but ultimately it is a tale of perseverance and maintaining personal and collective dignity in the face of a system that seeks to devalue you at every turn.
‘Umami & Lime’ rattles with harsh, minimal synth percussion before breaking down into a low-slung, sensuous chorus, while ‘Kids Table’ evokes a dubby, creeping flavour that is drawn from somewhere in the blend between Billie Eilish and Debby Friday, conjuring the energy of a kids’ party in the Village of the Damned. Each track delivers on its purpose: to remind us that the process of meaningful dialogue worked for us humans for an awfully long time, so let’s not give up on it just yet.
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