Promise & Illusion


Promise & Illusion is the first LP from Ecka Mordecai, following the release of her solo Critique + Prosper on Takuroku in 2020. Cello, violin, voice, horsehair harp, and field recordings combine to spin narrative melodies, rich intimacy, and melancholic landscapes. Promise & Illusion begins with the door to Mordecai's recording space opening and closing repeatedly, unsure whether to let performer or listener in. "woe are we" is sharp, uncomfortable but unafraid, as violin and voice twist together with a sort of tension and high drama that is reminiscent of The Executioner, Henning Christiansen's soundtracks made for the films of his partner Ursula Reuter Christiansen in the 1970s. Then things begin to soften, almost despite themselves. Distortion on "a unit has no unity" can't quite smother a rising tune on warped harp. The cello on "indigos" -- its voice pizzicato with a velvety sustain -- brings comfort and clarity. Mordecai hums a line, feeling out the edges of a song in an intimate release of tension. Mordecai's inclination towards a romantic, nocturnal gloom feels somewhat out of place in London's improvised experimental music. Trained in renaissance viola da gamba in Stafford as part of a youth group, Mordecai went on to study performance art in Brighton. Quickly distracted by the offerings of the sound art course instead, she dialed into the work of improvisers David Toop, Rie Nakajima, and Clive Bell, performing in art galleries and re-purposed off-site locations. A move north put her in touch with Miles Whittaker of Demdike Stare, and Andrew Chalk, and Tom James Scott, with whom she has collaborated as part of CIRCÆA. Slowly her work has taken shape amongst this myriad of influences. A recent recording with Valerio Tricoli made at a similar time to Promise & Illusion found its final form as a cassette -- a collage of sustained tones, ominous atmospheres and brief fourth wall dissolving vocal interactions. With CIRCÆA and Tricoli, Mordecai's previous work has dealt with landscapes, playing with the imaginary over the real, though improvisation is a useful way to dream. Solo on Promise & Illusion, she studies small details instead, the thoughts given space in the imaginary, both comforting and strange.