The human voice is a powerful tool – from dictators to therapists, the cries of young babies to the swell of a choir, the human voice has a unique, intense connection to human emotion. Throughout history the voice has been twisted and manipulated, rotated and sampled by musical genres. Thanks to the winding course of musical history, the human voice has become quite extraordinarily flexible.
Aluka, Melbourne’s finest experimental vocal group, use this flexibility and emotional stronghold to their (and your) greatest advantage. They have evolved to this point since forming in 2008, where they never set out to sing without instruments: they just enjoyed singing together so much that it seemed to naturally evolve.
Their journey up until this point has been successful: they have graced the stage of the Sydney Opera House and toured through the festival circuit, even bagging a special commendation at the Adelaide Fringe. Pop songstresses such as Lisa Mitchell and Clare Bowditch have even borrowed their vocal tapestries for their own backups.
Their debut album, Space, released on April 5 2013, was recorded and produced by Nick Huggins and it’s a feast for the ears. It’s a delicate narrative played out with a stunning geographical and spatial sub-plot created through the nuances of complex production.
As a gorgeous exploration of the timbre of the female voice, the intricacies of three incredible vocalists are really showcased on this album. But something more is being told in the story of these songs... beyond the lyrics, and beyond the style itself, there’s a few secret stories hidden in the production of this genre-bending record.
On their endless quest for creative discovery, the sharpened ears of Aluka took them on a journey around Victoria. Imagine ‘Keep My Cool’, their first single, as it was recorded; in a dark and echo-filled stairwell in Hawthorn, complete with the icy reverb of concrete. In other housebound makeshift experimental spaces, Aluka recorded in three separate bathrooms (one for each singer) and even a laundry/hallway/kitchen power combination.
Their adventures in sound venture deeper in ‘Vision’, where Aluka literally awaken a piano with their voices. A ghostly, ethereal experimental work, they removed the backs off three pianos, held down the sustain pedal and leaned close to the strings, which resonated with the notes they were singing, a vocal cord/piano chord collaboration.
This ongoing obsession with the reverb led Aluka to explore extreme echo (in a tram depot or a giant empty room) to various levels of damp sounds: a World War II bunker, an indoor swimming pool and even a true blue farmyard tractor shed – chickens included.
Combine this with a very serious microphone fetish and you should expect some aurally exhilarating sounds. Flitting between pop, avant garde, experimentalism, hymnals, hiphop and jazz, Aluka’s debut will fascinate you and your ears with its truly subtle and charming storytelling.