The Wire: Adventures in Modern Music, 364, July issue



Gum + Butts

Linear Obsessional CD-R/DL

Viv Corringham produces a vocal geography that meanders between document, song, conversation and ritual. Her voice offsets the now ubiquitous sound dots on Google maps and instead generates a mobile place of social exchanges, unplanned encounters and deliberate disconnections. On both Walking and Gum + Butts the voice responds to, mimics and continues the acoustic environment, and impels the listener to hear architecture and infrastructure in her vocalisations. But while on Walking the voice seeks sociality and desires communication, Gum + Butts presents a more deviant sound, from the sidelines of the cityscape, uttering and muttering what does not fit into its semantic form.

The tracks on Walking were all composed between 2009–13 and are part of Corringham’s ongoing project Shadow-walks, in which she takes an individual person on a walk, recording their conversation and the passed-through environment as a baseline on which and over which she composes a further trail in a solitary re-walking: following the route of the shared walk and voicing its path as she goes alone. While Corringham states that the memory of the shared walk is an important factor for her compositional approach the work remains solidly in the present. The initial conversations and any sense of memory imported through its exchange are but a pre-text; they provide mere words and associations that dissolve into breathing, ululating, humming and chanting to produce not language but a present soundscape. My favourite track Skywalks, recorded in the skyway system of Minneapolis, retains the conversation as idea rather than as sound: small snippets remind of the exchange that is surpassed in Corringham’s vocal improvisations which mimic and respond to the environment rather than the dialogue. Her re-voicings produce a sound that neither talks nor sings but conjures and cajoles a landscape from the body.

It is this inarticulate physicality that is developed further in Gum + Butts, where Corringham’s solitary vocal strolls perform a direct confrontation between the language and infrastructure of the city and the more deviant physical responses of a speechless voice.  She positions herself in highly populated places of London, Kings Cross, Borough Market, Tate Modern and others, to mutter, stutter, shriek and howl wordlessly, safe some sudden and bracketed speech, against a tide of conversations and signification. Her voice half turned towards herself, half addressing her busy surroundings; her solitary body standing at the margins of language and of everyday activity - prising open the city from its sounds. The madness of the disenfranchised meets mobile-phonic monologues to raise as concept and as song the spectre of Babylon.