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Lia Kohl The Ceiling Reposes
Curiosity for its own sake: this is at the heart of Lia Kohl’s work, which finds meaning where others might find none. Whether collaborating with some of independent music’s biggest names (Steve Gunn, Whitney, Makaya McCraven), improvising music around the world, or exploring intimacy with multimedia performance art, Kohl builds webs of connections along paths less traveled. The Ceiling Reposes builds upon her solo releases Too Small to be a Plain, on Shinyoko/Artist Pool, and Untitled Radio (futile, fertile), on Longform Editions. Here, Kohl expands her twin practices of layering improvisations to create music and incorporating these layers within found sounds. She took hours of live radio samples recorded primarily on Vashon Island in Washington State, choosing select moments – bits of weather reports, prayers, talk shows, ads, and music – to elaborate on with her own recordings.
The world of radio is ripe with possibility, holding both the mundanity of ads and news with moments of profound beauty or weight. Near the end of track 1, “in a specific room,” a snippet of Bobby Vinton’s “Roses are Red (My Love)” is followed by a voice saying, “we don’t know how much time we have left on this earth”; their juxtaposition forms an oddly touching love song. Later in the album, a twanging banjo and a medieval lute give lively dueling performances, one station away from each other. Kohl’s samples speak to each other in uncanny ways as she deftly weaves between stations, crafting a web of meaning that’s just out of reach. She uses the radio as an instrument, certainly, but also as a way of reaching toward the unknown. There’s an oracular, searching quality to the way she moves through radio stations and invites us to search with her.
While the radio is the point of departure, The Ceiling Reposes is rich with layered instruments – cello, synthesizers, voice, kazoo, piano, drums, bells, wind machine and more. Kohl recorded some instruments in the studio, elaborating on or mimicking the radio or each other. Others she captured outdoors, adding birdsong, rehearsal chatter or the sound of waves to the music. Albums are often made in layers, but Kohl holds these layers up for us to hear clearly, reminding us that every sound – whether radio waves, train horns or the direct output of a synthesizer – is in its own space and time. These layers elide and collide, creating a cohesive picture or blurring into double vision, giving the sense that we are in multiple times and spaces at once.
Kohl invites us to time travel. Collecting sounds from multiple moments – a truck backing up, blaring a persistent, repetitive C, layers perfectly on a man whistling on the radio – she orchestrates a chamber music of layered experiences, like a map of time made of fruit roll-ups. Kohl revels in the coincidences she finds, making one now into many and back into one.
released March 10, 2023
The Ceiling Reposes was recorded between November 2021 and May 2022 on Vashon Island, in Chicago and in New Orleans.
All music created and performed by Lia Kohl
Recorded by Lia Kohl on Vashon Island, New Orleans, Chicago,
and by Zach Moore at Not Not Studios
Lia Kohl: live radio, cello, synthesizers, voice, kazoo, concertina, wind machine, piano, drums, bells
Mixed and Mastered by Matt Mehlan at the Stuudio
Artwork by Sonnenzimmer
Art direction and image generation: Lia Kohl & Sonnenzimmer
Track titles by Elizabeth Metzger
The album title is from "Touch the Air Softly", a poem by William Jay Smith