Ariadne: Ex Tempore

Ex Tempore is somewhat of a curious title for this three-track EP by the Brooklyn-based “sacred music duo” Ariadne (Christine Lanx and Benjamin Forest), considering that ‘extempore' stands for something done in impromptu manner with little planning or preparation. Though the group's soundscapes are to some degree the product of improvisations (hence the release's title), Ex Tempore's material actually sounds carefully considered and methodically realized. The duo's music modernizes sacred vocal music by embedding it within an electronic context and subjecting it to various experimental treatments. There's a ritualistic quality to Ariadne's music, as well as an interesting tension that emerges in the juxtaposition between the chant-like vocalizing and the dramatic electronic treatments.

“He Walks” opens the twenty-three-minute EP with a vocals-only setting of liturgical character that sees Lanx's pure soprano voice repeatedly intoning the line “He walks with me” against a backdrop assembled from a male voice's clipped utterances. In stark contrast to the vocal-dominated opener, “Fantasy” initially combines flurries of industrial noise and looped vocal fragments in a way that suggests some bold clicks'n'cuts-styled experiment before Lanx's voice appears to impose some degree of control upon the eruptive instrumental design; strip the vocals out and in this case the result would be something not entirely unlike a prototypical Raster-Noton setting. The final piece, “Pain,” plays a little bit like a fusion of the other two, with equal emphasis given to the instrumental and vocal elements and Lanx's soaring voice (“I know this pain is real”) countered by a turbulent instrumental backdrop. While Ex Tempore impresses as a promising first strike by the duo, the real test will be how effectively Ariadne's heady music holds up when extended into an album-length presentation.

March 2015