2023 Album Reviews:  Particle of Organs, Emily Rach Beisel       

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Chicago Reader - Written by Leor Galil

Improviser, composer, and educator Emily Rach Beisel is entrenched in Chicago’s experimental-music community. In fall 2021, they launched the monthly Pleiades Series at Elastic Arts, which “features womxn and non-binary musicians and improvisors.” Because of Rach Beisel’s experience in this scene, I was prepared to be challenged by their recent solo album, May’s Particle of Organs—but not prepared enough! It’s a showcase for voice and bass clarinet, modified with analog effects and amplification, and from its first note it doesn’t exactly meet you halfway: opening track “The Indark Answers With Wind” begins with a low, guttural groan that could be a marble spiraling down a thick plastic tube, an abstract sound that warps further as the song progresses until their voice sounds like it’s being yanked into the cosmos by an alien tractor beam. Rach Beisel’s vocals make plain the artist’s love of extreme metal, and they strike me as especially violent and abrasive when set against the stretches of Particle of Organs where the background is spartan if not silent. Their bass clarinet usually sticks closer to the instrument’s familiar vocabulary, and in contrast to their vocal performances, it can provide levity or even relief—their melodic playing in the serene “Warm Upon Your Skin” feels like the sun breaking through turbulent clouds. At the beginning of the song, somber clarinet notes rise out of a low drone like steam off a hot bath, and when I first heard them, a wave of calmness washed over me—a sensation as intense as any of the anxiety and dread that Particle of Organs also provoked.


A Jazz Noise - Written by Dave Foxall 

When I posted a track as a Daily Tune (26th May) I said that this album had taken the top of my head off and stirred the contents. It's still a fair summary. Beisel's unique approach to the bass clarinet is beautifully brutal (an early for instance, the transition-without-pause between tracks #1 and 2 is a thrilling punch in the chest).

Confession time: alongside the guitar, the bass clarinet produces some of my favourite sounds (probably all goes back to Dolphy's Out To Lunch) and now... thanks to this entrancing, enthralling, unafraid album, it turns out the bass clarinet's range of sounds is just as broad.

Another small confession (are they really good for the soul?): I wasn't familiar with Beisel's work before this. Apparently they're known for “extended instrumental techniques with heavy amplification and timbral effects”. Sounds like my cup of tea. And it's those ‘timbral effects' that push the clarinet to its tonal and sonic limits, at times sounding like a guitar feeding back, an overamped cello, a set of bagpipes, even a clarinet (though often seeming to lurk below the bass level).

To the tunes'...

the indark answers with wind sounds like a howling gale in a confined space - rumbling, spinning, sighing, whether bubbling up from below or circling the drain to the underworld, it builds anxiety and atmosphere. And then there's that switch to humid rush from unlit cavities, the sudden scraping buzz of the clarinet amplified and supplemented with doom-metal vocal groans, a slowly menacing draconic respiration, warm and threatening.

The drone continues in warm upon your skin, now underpinning somewhat mournful melody played with a fairly straight clarinet tone - I'm thinking of a Highland dirge; a lament? an elegy? a quiet defiance...? As a sonic representation of a magnetised neutron star, within a pulsar flickers generates furious yet restricted energy - sheets of feeding-drone-back, jabbing bars of boxed-in sound, seeking exit or escape, searching for a penetrating frequency to unpick the lock, confined on all sides.

as a Jian-bird alone starts as a fluttering courtship dance (one Jian-bird hoping for another?) but as bubbling, shimmering sound crests and falls, a darker drone rises from the depths. A Jian-bird has one wing and one eye, reliant on finding a partner to fly but we don't fly, love does not conquer all, and the track ends with the chthonic groan subsuming all else, leading into further incoherence, a treated voice as rough and ragged despair, dragged down as weirdly angelic chorus-cries fall around it.

Leaving behind a wrecked throat, of omohyoid and bone opts for resonance; brainfreeze tones threaten the trigeminal nerve with physical impact and the eyes unfocus. Erratic percussion is derived from amplified valves, and pointillistic markers dot a darkly-vibrating canvas, leading on to broader, bolder splashes, a sudden, brief pause and... outside the cone of future light chops sound into brisk, rhythmic chunks, the clarinet crying and roaring in the speech of some aquatic-equivalent extraterrestrial.

As we approach the end, sought, unknown focuses on the sonic details - a sense of mechanism descending, bathyscaphe-like, amidst slowly-increasing pressure, passing momentary sound-denizens as we sink-fall, some curious, some distant, all wondrous.

The closing and title track, a particle of organs, is a culmination of power. Energy fairly crackles and roars, buzzing and bursting, arcing above and below, great scything sheets of overamped reed and a black-velvet hum - spinning the dial, surfing sweet spots of deep resonance.

I think this could be a concept album but what exactly that concept is escapes me. And I have no idea what the title means. The cover image is both beautiful and diseased: are these the titular organs? Malformed alien flora... fauna? Whatever they are, they grow far from sunlight...

“A Particle of Organs” is heavy stuff, sounds retrieved from the deeper places - the underworlds, the lightless subterranea, the crushing ocean trenches. Beisel pokes around in the sonic depths and brings leviathans out to play. It's a raw, abrasive, oppressive, and thrilling journey.


Foxy Digitalis - Written by Brad Rose 

This is incredible. Flailing sonic fires crawl through pits of molten sludge and burst skyward from a visceral, breathing pit. Emily Rach Beisel's music is guttural and splendid, felt in our stomachs at one moment before twisting delicately across each individual pore. She turns her bass clarinet from serrating projectile into a crystal wand at a moment's notice, spilling winding melodies across growling drones. Her voice roars in turn, expelling any fanciful notions and turning up the tension as wind-blown sputtering lights a gilded furnace. Particle of Organs is an absolute trip that digs deep into flesh and bone, ripping through rhythmic spackle and distorted gauntlets like Beisel is performing ancient, uncharted rituals. The raw intensity that permeates so many moments of Particle of Organs only heightens the impact of the quieter, more delicate moments. Beisel's fearlessness and focus are the narrative glue shaping this exquisite treatise into something unforgettable.