THE UNKNOWN SOUND COLLECTIVE “The Light within Hauntings” (Orb Tapes)


It gets under your skin right away. Elena Botts’s, erm, haunting voice drifts over sound sources like chimes or gongs, hit every four bars or so (emphasis on the “or so”), on the opening track “Stillborn,” till they’re processed and accompanied by field recordings played as textured noise. Botts masters the space in which her voice appears, clearly favoring the vastness of what’s outside of her in contrast to the still, small voice that occupies the corners, acting as a running commentary to everything else beyond it that does not notice it. Maybe her voice is the “light” within the “hauntings” of the tactile world, the focal point for wayfarers in need of guidance through the gloom. Then again, maybe it’s just a siren song, luring us in further until what haunts us is upon us, and we merge in cold corruption in an anti-flare of terror and gloom. How shocking!
As the Unknown Sound Collective, Botts and company take elusive approaches to composition, but it’s all rooted in Botts’s vocal performance. Sometimes traditional percussion cuts through the gloom, and piano isn’t an unwelcome guest itself. But it’s mostly the field recordings and other samples that really lend a sense of mood and tone, whether they’re anachronistic (traffic sound meets pagan chant?) or logically aligned (struck ceramic orb meets pagan chant?). But the content isn’t as important as the atmosphere, and The Light within the Hauntings, despite sounding exactly the way that title sounds, is a rich nocturnal world in which a single point of focus exists, and you’re drawn to it, whether directly or gradually. Either way, the Unknown Sound Collective has you right where it wants you.