Dwelling in the subbasement of Seattle's experimental-music underground, Dialing In (Reita Piecuch) creates haunting traumlieder, egoless pieces forged from scavenged instruments and samples lifted from unknown records and Russian 78s, bolstered by surreptitious snippets from Fleetwood Mac, the Moody Blues, R. D. Burman, and Sandy Bull releases. Sruti box, guitar, and piano complement the foraged audio scraps, which are mulched into oddly nutritious drones beamed in with ritualistic intensity. From impoverished circumstances, Dialing In forges rich tapestries of exotic, distressed sound design.
The Dialing In aesthetic can be likened to the accidental, poignant beauty of film stock deteriorating, of photographs fading—a sepia-toned seepage of sound. It's akin to the odor of used-book stores whose stock has been moldering since the first half of the 20th century, their tomes of yellowed pages and disintegrating bindings whispering of the tragically mundane mortality of human bodies and ideas.
A common Dialing In motif involves Asha Bhosle–esque voices ululating or keening over decaying, blurry drones and eroded oscillations that accrue grit and emotional heft with each passing minute. They're not so much songs as they are hymns to forgotten ancestors. You may find yourself overcome with grief for people you'll never meet in a thousand lifetimes. That's the beauty and power that this music exerts.
After two compelling CDs—2005's Ketalysergicmetha Mother and 2006's Cows in Lye—for two different New Zealand labels, Dialing In now offers her third album, The Islamic Bomb (on jade green vinyl, limited-edition, 500 copies from Connecticut-based Music Fellowship; www.musicfellowship.com). The LP refracts field recordings retrieved during Piecuch's recent trip to Pakistan. She submerges muezzin prayer calls and street-urchin chatter into piano études and enigmatic audio detritus, and then churns the raw materials into hypnotic, psychedelic symphonies that ooze like black bile.
"Griselda Plans Her Revenge" is one of the most heartbreakingly gorgeous pieces of music ever to ripple through my gray matter. A female melismatically trills a lamentation while another woman coos/hums in a lower register and a languid harp (I think) burbles beneath them. "Earl Grey" emits metallic fibrillations like a more blissful Vibracathedral Orchestra over what sounds like a muffled "Willow's Song" from The Wicker Man soundtrack. On "We Burn Our Stillborns," a woman speaks in indecipherable Urdu while a momentous melody puffs its chest in defiance in the face of doom. It sounds like a climactic piece of film music being engulfed in flames.
Death may be the mother of beauty, as the saying goes, but decomposition as practiced by Dialing In can lead to alluring, enduring art, as well.