Album Auto-nalysis is a regular Counterzine feature where we ask some of our favorite artists to breakdown their albums track-by-track, to provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making them. For this edition, we asked experimental artist The Doll to detail her new album ‘LIVE’.
Preface by The Doll:
The Doll: I do something different every time I play a gig, there will be some common elements like vocals, mics, and junk but the overall piece will be a one-off. I get bored easily so have no interest in repeating myself. I’d rather try something new, even if that means it might be total crap. This hasn’t happened yet but there’s always the risk which makes it more real for me as a performer, and hopefully for the audience too. I have an overall idea of a structure and I work loosely within that. Each performance is a site-specific improvisation.
The album title LIVE can be interpreted as live, alive, or live.
1. “Sound Salon”
The Doll: Snails is an artist-run space in Palmerston North. It is an art gallery, performance space, artist studios… it’s my favourite venue that I’ve ever had the opportunity to perform at in Aotearoa/NZ. They had recently had a pop-up hairdressers with 1970s ‘salon hood’ hair dryers so I went with this theme. I used a 1960s ‘soft bonnet’ hair dryer to create a drone – there’s a shower cap on a tube that comes out of a case that has a motor in it, you put it on and blast your head with hot air. It’s a hilarious looking thing. I was using a triple contact mic – two mics on the hair dryer & one on a tape player running into a mini amp. I had just recorded The Unknown Rockstar’s keyboard set onto the tape as he played in the next room and this recording adds to the texture. I sat on the floor surrounded by toys & junk and played with it using toes, hands, & mouth. The hair dryer has 3 speeds so I could crank the motor up and get some great textures.
2. “Universal Jane”
The Doll: This performance was supporting foot-guitarist & wonderful human Greg Malcolm at the Audio Foundation, Auckland. The AF is a fantastic place for both local and international experimental music, if you are in AK and looking for live music of the weirder type this should be your starting point. That afternoon I had watched Shuhada’ Davitt’s (then Sinéad O’Connor) video that she filmed in a New Jersey motel, talking about her struggles with mental illness. I felt so desperately sad, thinking about people I love that are struggling, and some that have lost the fight and taken their own lives. I had recently lost a friend in Seattle and you never get over the heartbreak, thinking that you should have tried harder, could have done something. So this performance was an expression of those emotions, a ritualistic catharsis of despair. I had a table with various items on it, and a tape player playing a heartbeat tape with a contact mic on it. The mic picked up every movement on the table too. This performance was in the concrete bunker room which has gorgeous reverb, I love singing in there.
3. “Gateway Couch”
The Doll: This piece was at Pillowcase: Soft Abuse & Stabbies Etc Showcase at the AF, in the small exhibition room. In deference to the event I was lying on the ground in a blanket I found on the side of the road, with a old pillow in a ham bag. The lights were all off except for a lamp. The audience came in and after a while we were all cozy and relaxed until the hideously loud vintage radio alarm clock started buzzing, waking me up. Some of the audience got a bit of an unpleasant shock too. I hit the snooze button and started to play around with all of the various stuffs using the old hands, feet, and mouth technique. My back was to the audience so hopefully I looked like an unhinged spider, or maybe the organist I once saw at Benaroya Hall in Seattle – he had hands and feet going all over the place as he struggled with the massive brute. When the alarm started bleating again it was time to turn everything off and go back to sleep. Phew. The title of this piece is because just before the show a friend had been telling me about this guy who had bought a ‘gateway couch’ for $3000 because he couldn’t afford the one he really wanted which was 10K. My first response was WTF?!? Who are these people?!? Followed by “my gateway couch is the floor”.
4. “Cheap Romance”
The Doll: This performance was at Stefan Neville’s Exhibition Closing event at the AF, in the main performance room. I had a minimal set up – 2 karaoke mics, 2 mini amps, and a fuzz pedal. I wanted it to be a puppet show. I wore a kaftan to created the backdrop, the mini amps were on the ground and the mics ‘voices’ were created by the feedback as I dangled them almost to the floor. It told a little story… two gender- neutral karaoke mics meet for the first time, check each other out, chat each other up, dance a bit, get entwined, bliss out, and are then serenaded by The Doll. They disappear behind the kaftan for a bit and get it on rather noisily causing them to pass out on top of the mini amps. I don’t know if the audience had any idea what was going on but it made total sense to me.
You can purchase The Doll’s ‘LIVE’ here digital and cassette via Grimalkin Records. All proceeds from the sale of cassettes sales go to The Aunties located in Auckland, New Zealand. The Aunties are a group of people who for various reasons – empathy, experience, and a sense of social justice – seek to provide support and serve as kaitiaki to the vulnerable, particularly those who have experienced domestic violence. Each cassette comes with a one-off playing card collage, as seen below: