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I Am A Tree, I Am A Mouth


"Having carved out a niche performing groundbreaking chamber opera around the world, Australian singer Jane Sheldon's first solo album finds a path through the combination of Rainer Maria Rilke (a German poet dead for almost a century), her voice, and seven gongs. On I Am A Tree, I Am A Mouth, working with one gong for each song, Sheldon launches herself into experiments with layered voices, electronic processing, and super-slowed-down fragments of sonic resonance, where she skirts the edge of avant rock to find her true singular voice. It's an album that's viscerally human, earnestly sensual and passionately transcending, drawing inspiration from Sarah Davachi, Hildegard von Bingen, Maryanne Amacher, and Lhasa de Sela. Long a critical darling of modern music (called 'riveting' by The New York Times, 'stunning' by The Washington Post, and 'a voice of penetrating beauty, precision and variegated colors' by the Sydney Morning Herald), she's premiered new operas at Holland Festival with ASKO|Schönberg and Sydney Chamber Opera and toured the world with John Zorn. But Sheldon goes minimal on I Am A Tree, I Am A Mouth. She started recording gongs, slowing them down, singing along, seeing how the interaction sounded, and soon realized it embodied all she was looking to achieve. Not one breath hides, and as one listens one is made aware of one's own breathing, one's heartbeat, the flow of one's blood. Sheldon completed the album at the tail end of the pandemic, and she released the album to streaming with almost zero promotion. She was surprised when The New Yorker and Bandcamp praised its unique vision, as well as when New York's MATA Festival programmed the first live performance of the work. Sheldon's discipline involves utter focus and emotional engagement and I Am A Tree, I Am A Mouth is an enrapturing work by a newcomer to mainstream audiences who has been kicking at the edges for years."