My Home, Sinking: King of Corns

Cryptic, disturbing, and eerie, like an Edgar Allen Poe poem rendered into gothic musical form, King of Corns is an undeniably arresting recording from Enrico Coniglio, operating in this case under his My Home, Sinking alias—not that the recording's tone should come as a total shock when the striking achromatic image on its cover shows a woman with black holes for eyes and a necklace of roses. Recordings by the Venice-based sound artist always reward one's attention, but this one does even more, not only because of its macabre tone but also thanks to the contributions of others, vocalists Jessica Constable, Violeta Paivankakkara, and Chantal Acda among them.

Par for the Coniglio course, the multi-instrumentalist contributes a diversity of sounds to the eleven set-pieces. Guitar, melodica, harmonica, horn, electric organ, synthesizer, found objects, field recordings, and programming are among the elements with which he's credited, but equally important to the album's sound design are the vibraphone, piano, and viola playing of Peter Paul Gallo, Elisa Marzorati, and Piergabriele Mancuso, respectively. The vocalists' impact is even more critical, considering that each of the three sings in a manner distinct from the others. Put simply, King of Corns benefits greatly from the guests' involvement.

Both vocal pieces and instrumentals appear on the release. “Bird's Eye”—the track title, fittingly, calling to mind Poe's The Raven—introduces the album on a broodingly atmospheric note, with Marzorati's fragmented piano figures intoning clearly amidst a thick sludge of harmonica, surface crackle, and groaning guitar textures. Things takes an especially harrowing turn in the title track when the nightmarish effect of Constable's cryptic vocal delivery—as much spoken as sung—is augmented by a creepy piano motif and the shudder of string-generated glissandos. Softly uttering lines such as “Black night, bleeding sun” and the Pynchon-esque “A comet comes across the sky,” Acda's lyrics in “I Can't Help It (But This is the End)” are emblematic of the album's dark tone, even if, soundwise, the song itself is one of its prettiest. A dramatically different mood is instated when the fragile hush of Finnish artist Paivankakkara imbues the harmonica wheeze and glockenspiel tinklings of “Animating Old Postcards (Aikaa ei ole Olemassa)” with an almost fairy tale-like quality.

Often subdued in presentation, the instrumentals provide restful stopping points along the journey. On “D'automne (The Sobs of the Violins),” Mancuso has his first moment in the spotlight, in this case a rather decrepit one when his viola softly wails alongside Coniglio's acoustic guitar and Marzorati's piano; a second one emerges later during the peaceful “Love Scene,” the violist's emoting now partnered with Gallo's vibes. Replicating the unsettling tone of the title track is “The Day the Earth... (Clock is Ticking),” a ponderous meditation whose creaks and metronomic pulse lend the piece a ‘world-is-ending' vibe. Also contributing to the album is ambient sound artist James Murray, who collaborates with an electric guitar-wielding Coniglio on “Along The Pipeline” and conjoins electronics to Constable's singing on the closing “Full Blank (No Stars).”

If there's an album concept in play, it has less to do, I suspect, with a specific theme than with mood, an impression formed by the material's enigmatic, often expressionistic character. Each of the album's settings offers one surprise or another, and their unpredictability keeps the listener on edge, waiting with anticipation for whatever disturbances the next one will bring.

December 2017