To experience Lucrecia Dalt’s Anticlines is to immerse oneself into the musical equivalent of a sensory deprivation tank. A molasses-thick yet razor-sharp blankness permeates the album. It engulfs and shuts out the universe while opening a crevice into its own abstract world filled with multilayered metaphors. The listener is alone and powerless while sinking into it. That is the backdrop that the Berlin-based Colombian artist, now on her sixth full-length and moving farther and farther from her indie-pop beginnings, slices and carves with prickly synth sounds, amorphous vocal lines, and a sense of almost grotesque curiosity and philosophical impetus.
The introductory cut is a perfect example of Dalt’s approach. Formerly a geotechnical engineer, she uses modular synthesizers to recreate the sonic tapestries and sense of claustrophobia of Earth’s depths. “Edge” is thus a pulsing, eerie thing that inhabits the belly of an enormous cavern. Individual noises, synthetic approximations of water dripping and swirling, feel distant and muted while Dalt, through a flow of spoken word, ponders the limits and surfaces of flesh. “How long does one last without organs to feel it,” she recites and whispers in dramatic monotone over a minimal matrix of bubbling, disappearing sounds and incisive synths. As if relying on the sense of touch to discover alien surfaces in the dark, the atmospheres she conjures are heavy and threatening yet exhilarating.
While other pieces explore subjects on a cosmic scale, “Edge” reaches for the mythological through the Amazonian creature El Boraro, a monster who liquifies and absorbs its victims’ insides before inflating their bodies like balloons. It’s a perfect specimen for Dalt to study and an incarnation of the idea of one body existing inside another. “I want to fill you up with my exhalations,” she susurrates with a calm conviction, “and I would be the breath / and I would press against the back of your eyeballs.” While these images might be vivid and gory, Dalt is not interested in body horror and instead experiences a scientific sort of fascination as she ponders, “What am I but edge, you ask me? / An organless freedom.”
Dalt’s concern with questions of boundaries and edges—between entities, between the material and immaterial, between the organic and the synthetic, and, ultimately, between life and death—is reflected throughout the record. She uses anticlines, geological foldings in the landscape where the oldest layers become the core of the formation, as metaphors of relationships and dynamics resurfacing and collapsing upon themselves. The music is carefully constructed, with each onomatopoeic sound, like the glistening of stalactites, the sharp drops of water, or the sizzle of pressure in the air, meticulously placed. It’s a form that teeters between music and sound art and emerges as an installation in motion and time.
As the record progresses, the concreteness of the first cuts starts to dissolve while Dalt filters her minimalist style using different sonic concepts, pressing them against traditional South American rhythms and morphing sounds and vocals. “Altra” is propelled by meandering bass signals and adorned with synth chirps that emanate from a secluded, submerged place, only to implode in a loud and abrasive fashion. There are deconstructed post-punk and new wave elements on the lush “Tar” as Dalt hums “we breathe tar, as only lovers breathe tar”. It’s a song that feels simultaneously (inter)personal and astronomical. Elsewhere, such as on “Errors of Skin”, elements of Olivier Messiaen’s chromatic organ work and atonality are shaped into aggressive, disjointed forms and squeaks woven around an internal, danceable rhythm.
Dalt’s vocals are equally shapeshifting. Clean spoken word sections become detached from her vocal chords and float in a cloud of distortion. Her voice radiates from an old radio sitting in the corner of a room on “Axis Excess” and her incantations stream in reverse on “Concentric Nothings”. On the expansive and calming “Liminalidad” and “Eclipsed Subject”, she adopts Laurie Anderson’s style while a vocoder deforms her vocals and contrasts them against a caustic background.
The record closes at its most abstract point with the dissonant, hissing, and glitchy “Antiform” that provides an open-ended conclusion, another fold in the layers of a potent and provocative album.