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Strange Neonatal Cry

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Album Review

Following Erik Belgum's Blodder in 1999, Strange Neonatal Cry is his second release on Innova Recordings. This album comes back to a more traditional form of spoken word art. While the 1999 two-CD set consisted of a collage of voice samples in multiple parts, this work follows a single, continuous narrative featuring the sole voice of Belgum, the omniscient narrator. Therefore it is immediately easier to follow (no fragmentation effect) and to stomach (with a duration of just under an hour). To compensate for the more linear narrative, the composer added a track of electronic sounds. Long treated tones and occasional random rhythms fade in and out, establishing a mood and supporting (not illustrating) the words. Belgum's voice echoes as if he were speaking from the parking ramp that constitutes the setting of the story. A woman has witnessed the assault of an attendant there. She cannot escape the traumatizing experience and relives aspects of it. Dream and reality intersect, events repeat themselves like the identical levels of the concrete structure. The closed circuit of the narration recalls Samuel Beckett's Malone Meurt (Malone Dies) or Alain-Robbe Grillet's Dans le Labyrinthe (In the Labyrinth). Like these two novels, Strange Neonatal Cry allows the listener/reader to drift in and out of focus, since no specific detail is particularly important. That's why Belgum describes his work as "ambient fiction." And it works very well in this form. ~ François Couture, Rovi

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