Promise & Illusion is the first LP from Ecka Mordecai, following the release of her solo Critique + Prosper on Takuroku in 2020. Cello, voice, horsehair harp, violin and field recordings combine to spin narrative melody, rich intimacy and melancholic landscapes.
Composed around an exploration of la charnière (from the French ‘hinge’), Promise & Illusion begins with the sound of footsteps and a door opening and closing repeatedly, unsure whether to let us into the mysterious interior beyond. We are reminded of the house of Penny Slinger in An Exorcism, an abandoned mansion of gothic hallways and inky corridors. “woe are we” twists violin and voice together into the sort of tension and high drama heard in “The Executioner” - Henning Christiansen’s soundtracks made for the films of his partner Ursula Reuter Christiansen in the 1970’s. Then things begin to soften, almost despite themselves. Distortion on ‘a unit has no unity’ can’t quite smother a rising tune on warped harp. The cello on ‘indigos’ - its voice pizzicato with a velvety sustain - brings comfort and clarity. Mordecai hums a line, feeling out the edges of a song in an intimate release of tension. We are across the threshold - into a romantic sort of nocturnal gloom that feels somewhat out of place in London’s experimental music scene.
Trained on viola da gamba as part of a renaissance youth group in the historic midland town of Stafford, Mordecai went on to study performance art in Brighton, later graduating in sound art in London. She performed with David Toop and Rie Nakajima as part of Allan Kaprow’s Yard at the Hepworth Gallery, as well as performing scores by Yoko Ono and George Brecht solo at White Cube Gallery as part of Christian Marclay’s Liquids exhibition. Later, various moves across the north of England found her working with Andrew Chalk and Tom James Scott (forming the trio Circæa), Miles Whittaker (of Demdike Stare) and performing alongside free improvisers. A myriad of influences have crossed her path, her work slowly taking shape across music concrète, improvisation and performance art.
A more recent recording with Valerio Tricoli as ‘Mordecoli’ made during the development of Promise & Illusion found its final form as a cassette - a collage of sustained tones, ominous atmospheres and brief 4th wall dissolving vocal interaction. With both Circæa and Mordecoli, Mordecai deals with landscapes - playing with the imaginary over the real and using improvisation as a useful way to dream.
On Promise & Illusion, Mordecai sharpens her focus and pivots toward the interior over the exterior - the landscape becoming a personal, psychological one - both comforting and strange.