Eclectic Innovative Vocalism
Pamela Z: A Secret Code
(Neuma Records / June 18, 2021)
Inspiration comes from everyday experience for vocal and musical innovator Pamela Z. The sounds of a typewriter, birds, the buzz of an airport check-in desk - they're all fodder for her musical imagination.
Her approach to song is idiosyncratic, sometimes like breathlessly sung poetry, other times, layered in loops of word and sound. She can make music out of virtually anything, it seems.
Each track establishes a rhythmic idea and/or motif, and then plays with it, enlarges it. It's the kind of concept that can, and does, become gimmicky in lesser hands. Here, the results are compelling, even haunting in some passages.
There are sprinklings of what fellow composer Anne Lockwood calls her "surreal humour" in the liner notes - like the sounds of Typewriter, and in Other Rooms, an inane monologue.
Quatres Couches/Flare Stains and A Piece of π are standout tracks that create an absorbing web of sound that weaves you, the listener, inside of them. Site Four builds drama with sound only, an insistent, throbbing pulse that runs through the piece.
It's vocalism unfettered by any sense of formal or theoretical restriction, and woven into pure expression.
A Secret Code is her third solo album after Echolocation (1988), and A Delay is Better (2004).