the Vocalise in “…Life” and the afterlife

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I’ve seen death twice. Human death.

Once in the face of my father. Years later, in the face of my mother.

……How do you come back from that?

You wait.

You float…as time finally brings you back to the surface to breathe.

Mom was as graceful in her death as she was in life.

I had learned of the musical decrescendo and ritardando when I was a child studying piano: to gradually decrease in volume and in pace. It was often a way to end a piece…beautifully and with elegance.

As I watched my mother’s breath, there was a steady decrescendo and ritardando. Her life force moved with two last, faint breaths, and her body was done.

This…is where I sing from–having bore witness to the unthinkable–but not just the pain of these experiences. There is a massive, vast depth to the pain, and in these depths I have tasted infinity where also dwells the endless beauty and joy that makes life worthwhile, enchanting, and full with ecstasy. Where devastation carves you out, I imagine beauty and love fill you in.

So, music…comes from life. The range of pitch, pace and volume in the natural world informs the nuance of the music we create. More specifically, cultures come to dictate the fabric and structure of music as we know it. When I make music, I am musically influenced by all of the music I have ever heard. When I come to sing I am the human as instrument making sound with my voice as a language of its own. Before we had the systems of symbols that make up language, we had our musicality. We were musical beings, and with a certain musical phrase we could communicate a desire…reveal an emotion…not defined as jazz or classical or any style and genre we try to confine sound to today.

This is why I am in love with the vocalise: “a vocal passage consisting of a melody without words”. I can tell you my stories, and infuse my sound with my emotion most intimately in a vocalise. There are secrets to discover in the sound: without words, I’m not forcing any specific mode of comprehension or interpretation, nor a fixed time in which they are revealed to the listener. No richness of the expression is lost to the constraints of language. What is any tone without a word? What does it mean objectively? Nothing. But, how does it make you feel? This is where my focus lies.

King Britt invited each singer on this album to arrive at the music he had composed with only their heart but no less than their truth. Coming to the music he had written for “…Life”, I entered its hallways and rooms with my voice…no words. I recorded my vocals as three entities: Humana, Spirita, and Machina: the human that has experienced this life thus far, my spirit self that lives and flies in dreams, and these two entities married to the reality of the machine. There are cries, lullabies, and a highest register (Machina) where my voice is flipped to a range beyond that which I can produce.

With the album “After…” as a prefix, the full title of this piece is truly “Afterlife”—so fitting since I, and my sound, are in essence my parents’ afterlife. I continue when and where they could not. Singing on this track and past music for Fhloston Paradigm has brought me great solace and purpose in processing and expressing the enormity of all that unfolds in this life.

Please listen and enjoy your journey with this sound. Love always, Pia.

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Pitchfork – After…

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“Opera singer and frequent collaborator Pia Ercole, whose vocal is a fixture of the Fhloston Paradigm releases, reprises her role as the voice of God. Connecting AFTER… to The Phoenix with the album’s second track, “…LIFE,” she introduces a new direction that hones in on the dexterity of each singer instead of burying them in ambient melody.”

Fhloston Paradigm

AFTER…

Pitchfork album review by Karas Lamb:

On his latest album as Fhloston Paradigm, the renowned Philadelphia-bred DJ and producer King Britt realizes his most adventurous and dynamic self. In the wake of 2016’s 20-year-anniversary show for his legendary group Sylk 130—itself a precursor to neo-soul—Britt closes the book on his earliest endeavors by traveling deeper into space. The 2014 Fhloston Paradigm debut The Phoenix married analog synths, opera, and electronic music for a solid departure from his previous forays into acid jazz, house, and dance music. With AFTER…, Fhloston Paradigm breaks away from the vehicle that inspired his moniker—the 1997 Luc Besson film The Fifth Element—and the mad scientist aesthetic of his earlier work. He hits his artistic stride with a more focused and polished version of the out Fhloston sound.

As important as the unification of genres on AFTER…, then, is the honesty at the core of the album. Playing to his strengths as a selector and composer, Fhloston Paradigm trades rave nostalgia and experimental noodling for a well-balanced marriage of the melodic expertise, emotion, and appetite for the unknown that live across his vast catalog. He does this without ego or exposition. He does it with a deft hand and a decent amount of vulnerability. The result is a release that speaks as clearly to his futurist leanings and creative maturation as it does the jive, groove, and gut-wrenching emotion endemic to Black American music.

Three years removed from Fhloston Paradigm’s Hyperdub debut, AFTER… takes a measured step away from experimental music to embrace something closer to spiritual trance—something decidedly more personal. Lead single “…MATH” is a prolonged statement of peace. The composition recalls the Eastern breathing tradition of pranayama—the practice of regulating and extending the breath—with its respect for space and the cyclical emergence of light. Breaking open the physical form of AFTER… illuminates a life force; a beating, techno-inflected heart is quickly established as the core of the entire project.

Opera singer and frequent collaborator Pia Ercole, whose vocal is a fixture of the Fhloston Paradigm releases, reprises her role as the voice of God. Connecting AFTER… to The Phoenix with the album’s second track, “…LIFE,” she introduces a new direction that hones in on the dexterity of each singer instead of burying them in ambient melody.

On the Nosaj Thing-assisted “…THE HEARTBREAK,” electro-pop singer Kate Faust offers a stylistic nod to the ululations of women in mourning and labor—both experiences that push the soul beyond the physical body.

The album has a thematic preoccupation with the nuance of the female range—one of the pillars of soulful house music, and a clear nod to Britt’s earlier projects, including the seminal King Britt Presents Sylk 130 ‎– When The Funk Hits The Fan. In this case, however, the vocals are as primal as they are tender, operatic moments referential of weepy spirituals and Fhloston’s original muse, Diva Plavalaguna—the statuesque opera singer from The Fifth Element. At about the halfway point, though, the technique of layering vocals to an atmospheric end starts to feel overdone.

Where the lack of discernable lyrics on AFTER… could prove frustrating, the ambiguity seems to ask, “What is language after life?” And in a realm where communication is much less literal, AFTER… suggests spiritual ascension might be achieved through sonic exploration, in lieu of a certain messiah. The Moor Mother-assisted “…ALL” is a brooding, bottom-heavy exercise in raw, polyrhythmic electricity; it conjures ghosts and gives voice to clear and present danger. Puerto Rican Space Program’s album closer “…HOURS” counters that darkness with temple bells and sharp statements that expand and contract at different frequencies against ample bass. It is a prayer punctuated by found sounds and holy tones, affirming ancient traditions and extolling the virtues of life on other planes.

Taken as a sincere meditation, AFTER… suggests that Britt began the project with his own mortality in mind. In it, he revisits and reckons with the unfinished pieces of himself. In the tradition of Kintsugi—the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with precious metals, honoring pieces of pottery instead of discarding them—he gathers scraps of compelling ideas, fleshes them out, and repairs them with gold. Britt has reassembled the very best bits of his past lives as a writhing body electric. Though his previous journeys netted no major losses, Fhloston Paradigm finds itself in AFTER… and finally takes flight.

Pitchfork Review of Album “After…”

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7/25/17 Fhloston Paradigm Live Johnny Brenda’s

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Fhloston Paradigm (live show)

Ryat, Pia Ercole, Moor Mother, Jacqueline Constance, Tim Motzer, Alexa Barchini, Sci Fi DJ Set By Ryan Todd

Tue, July 25, 2017 Doors: 8:00 pm Show: 9:00 pm

Johnny Brenda's Event

Event Page – Purchase Tickets

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7/28/17 National Sawdust

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Fhloston Paradigm: An Evening in the After

July 28, 2017 10pm @ National Sawdust

National Sawdust Event

Building on his wildly successful 2011 album Fhloston Paradigm, DJ King Britt presents a live performance of the sequel: “After…”. A sucker for the soundworlds of old science fiction, Fhloston Paradigm was King’s electronic, afro-futurist take on the “Fhloston Paradise”, known best in the film The Fifth Element. The new album, “After…”  is the continuation of the story the feeling of ascension through primal, polyrhythmic energy. For this special live presentation of the new album, King (electronics) will be joined by Ryat (electronics/vocals), Stephanie Yu (violin), Tim Motzer (guitartronics), Pia Ercole (vocals/electronics), Jacqueline Constance (vocaltronics) and a few surprises!

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