- Voice and synth minimalism from the Glasgow-based artist.
- Before last winter, Cucina Povera wasn't known far past the Glasgow underground. When Hilja, the artist's debut LP, came out in January 2018, people were reaching all over the map to place her in a particular sonic lineage. Finding uncannily sweet and inherently melancholic sensibilities, parallels were drawn with Björk and the Moomins. A fondness for the loop pedal brought to mind Julia Holter. Percussion comprised of found objects invited comparison with Moondog. But much of Cucina Povera's sound comes from a place of artistic constraints that are both conceptual and pragmatic. "Cucina povera" is an Italian phrase denoting a make-do style of cooking with items available, and thus a proposal for humble minimalism. She's expressed an intention to work in an anti-canonical way. She's also stipulated that her setup fit in a backpack so she can cycle to the venue.
Zoom, put out last month by the Glasgow-based label Night School, was recorded with a setup that might fit in the pockets of a winter jacket. Written on the cover sleeve is this simple recipe: "Recorded through a VE20 vocal effects pedal directly into a Zoom H2N in Autumn/Winter 2016." "ZOOM0005" is a series of low hums and sharp whispers, accompanied by what might be a bottlehead being lightly blown. "ZOOM0010" bears a striking resemblance to the breathy and staccato vocalizations in Meredith Monk's "Volcano Songs, Duets: Walking Song," but faster and more melodic. For the most part, language is broken down and the voice is used as an instrument. There are a few verbal interjections, but most of "ZOOM0014" sounds like a choir soprano practicing her scales over a decomposing organ's loping phrases.
Cucina Povera's recorded output on the internet is fittingly sparse, but I came across her single NTS show with the hope that it might shine a light on her influences. Among tracks by Kara-Lis Coverdale and the Ectoplasm Girls, a delightfully weird deep cut surfaced. It contained words spoken by Nancy Holt, an artist best known for her monumental sculptures in the plains of the American West, sampled from a video shot by fellow artist Richard Serra in 1974. Holt spoke into a microphone and listened to her own voice on a slight delay through headphones. She narrated the experience: "I have a double take on myself. I am once removed from myself… I want to hear my own words pouring back in on top of me." Like the songs on Zoom, this is the sound of an artist becoming intensely intimate with the only thing she will always have with her: her own voice.