Vas Hermeticum is the San Diego-based experimental music duo of Bonnie Lander and Clint McCallum. Lander and McCallum, like most of the Risky Forager family, met in the anything-goes scene that orbits the graduate program at the University of California, San Diego. McCallum, trained as a composer, and Lander, a classical singer, share a mastery of the concert hall sanctioned forms as well as a profound restlessness with them. Both have long explored performance art tactics of disguise, disgust, and disarticulation of the body, staging visual and visceral extremities as part of sound-centric spectacles that push beyond the expressive boundaries of music. Both have created large scale music dramas and both are improvisers of ferocious emotion and technical power. Above/Below is their first collaboration, and witnesses their electronic sound wizardry suspended on a scaffolded of unremitting forward motion, scenically intricate and psychologically spun. Though saturated and processed to the point of unrecognizability at many points, most of the sound comes from the artists’ voices, which helps to explain its agility, corporeality and heart: Noise with no knob twiddling, drone that invites no zone-out, this is a choral music from a cathedral that welcomes and inflames–showing no interest in quieting–our troubled spirits.
Vas Hermeticum writes: “We wanted to collaborate together for a long time, and had tried out a few ideas. However, nothing really clicked until this configuration. Actually, Clint started out playing 5-string bass, which worked really well, but soon switched to vocals and samples which provided more sonic opportunities for both of us.
We found dramatic focus in improvising on death scenarios – most notably one Clint read about in the paper where a police officer may or may not have committed suicide in a dangerous road side pull-over that left her wandering across a highway at night with no regard to safety protocols. After this we began brainstorming other death scenarios (in the bathtub….on barbituates…etc.), which led us, one day, to improvise on a mass.
Bonnie, who had performed the Fauré requiem not long before, had been moved to bring the text to the Catholic mass to a rehearsal after having spent the previous day consoling a friend who’s brother-in-law had suddenly passed away. We loved how the mass honors the dead, portrays the agony of their death, and wishes them eternal life and peace. We debuted our rendition in Tijuana the following weekend.
Although we no longer use the mass text as a literal focus, all our work continues to explore the concept of “crossing over” to the other side. The Jungian references came from a joyous, if not blurry afternoon of reading The Red Book while listening back to our recordings.”
–The Risky Forager
Music by Bonnie Lander and Clint McCallum
Engineered/Mixed/Mastered by Joe Mariglio