London-based duo Camila Fuchs spent their 2016 debut album, Singing from Fixed Rung, carving out a space indebted to IDM, Kosmische-indebted ambience, and nocturnal trip hop. The enigmatic sounds that Camila de Laborde and Daniel Hermann-Collini utilized on that earlier effort were sufficiently moody, but also somewhat underdeveloped, never quite feeling fully immersive. Heart Pressed Between Stones draws on similar influences, but the duo have refined their sound, and allow for each of the six tracks here to feel like interconnected parts of an overarching narrative. One reason for this is that de Laborde’s esoteric vocalizing is more prominent this time. The singer’s specific rhythms and intonations are strongly reminiscent of Björk’s, but she doesn’t attempt to utilize her voice in a traditional storytelling mode; the primary purpose of her vocal is to provide affectation, to conjure-up emotions in a manner not dissimilar to that of other instrumentation. The accompaniment to de Laborde’s voice — which includes hypnotizing drum rhythms, noisy-but-melodic ambience, bubbling synth melodies, and squelching electronics — further helps define the album’s overarching mood. And while de Laborde and Hermann-Collini have said that Heart Pressed Between Stones doesn’t have a specific theme, per se, the work does present a series of ideas that reflect the daily bombardment of our harrowing contemporary news cycle. Consequently, the lyrics here tend to imply timely topics (“heat waves,” “weapons,” “manipulation”) and how one responds to them (“panic attacks,” “love,” “going against love”). Where this album excels, though, is in making the reality of today’s world understood through abstraction-as-sound; after all, a direct relaying of information would amount to little more than reading an op-ed.
While de Laborde and Hermann-Collini have said that Heart Pressed Between Stones doesn’t have a specific theme, per se, the work does present a series of ideas that reflect the daily bombardment of our harrowing contemporary news cycle.
Opening track “One on One” features a looping drum pattern, serpentine bassline, and the sound of flying sparks. “I’m sad when I fight the ones to whom I’ve opened my heart / Fooled, betrayed by unreadable charm,” sings de Laborde on a song that turns out to be a lamentation for the state of a particular relationship, and specifically her conflicted thoughts about it. The pain here stems from miscommunication, and this causal link is brought up throughout the album. On “Heatwave (Coming Towards You),” de Laborde sings about tin can telephones and repeats the album’s title, indicating the physical and emotional turmoil that she’s facing; the soft synth pulses flickering throughout the song telegraph simultaneous anxiety and numbness. On “Direct Truth,” obfuscated recordings of people talking are interrupted by harsh, Tim Hecker-esque abrasion. The noise eventually clears out to let de Laborde’s voice take center stage: “Could it be that he’s telling me a direct truth?” Her voice fluctuates in the mix as if gasping for air, to avoid drowning in uncertainty — and the song’s instrumentation follows suit with unexpected bouts of turbulence. “I don’t think it can be that simple,” de Laborde concludes. Every single track on Heart Pressed Between Stones bears thoughtful consideration for how each element works together to convey the paralyzing nature of the world. And with this interconnectedness comes an understanding of how the different topics discussed impact all spheres of one’s life. The album’s final track, “For All Stable Appearances, He Was Wild,” begins with a statement that sums up this notion: “A wild inability to think before doing.” Is it a comment on the spread of misinformation, or an observation regarding the difficulty in processing one’s thoughts in today’s world? Is it a diatribe against Trump, perhaps? Is the line referring to people as a whole, to someone that de Laborde was in in a relationship with, or to herself? It could be any of these, but it’s more likely all of them.