LINGUA IGNOTA – ” Sinner Get Ready ” Album Of the Week

Posted: August 16, 2021 in MUSIC
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Her latest album as Lingua Ignota, Kristin Hayter burrowed deep into the landscape of rural Pennsylvania. Though the exact location of its genesis is not clear, “Sinner Get Ready” is crafted with Appalachian folk instruments and mired in the region’s traditional religious fervour. Interspersed with clips from televangelist sermons, this music examines the duality of blind devotion. Like so much of Hayter’s work, the record is also a text of discomfort; it was created during lockdown, following months of excruciating pain due to a spinal surgery. Even the instruments she worked with presented a unique challenge: The classically trained musician taught herself to play banjo and cello, stoking their sounds to ignite a torrid mythology.

On her previous Lingua Ignota album, 2019’s “Caligua” Hayter invoked Satan himself, commanding him to “fortify” her in a quest for retribution. It was an blistering tribute to oppressed women. For that album, Hayter enlisted members of The Body, Uniform and Full Of Hell, subjecting her operatic melodies to corrosive distortion and electronic manipulation. On “Sinner Get Ready“, Hayter confronts the inverse of Caligula, both formally and thematically. She forgoes digital processing for simpler tools: A menacing organ, an animal-skin drum, penny whistle. Hayter either subverts these instruments or leans into their ecclesiastical implications. The result, as those who’ve encountered the full-tilt of religious fanaticism know, are just as frightening.

The record’s arrangements are as stringent and severe as their environment: this Pennsylvania is a place of harsh isolation, curious history and haunting folklore which, as Hayter sings, spans hermetic cloisters, murderous ironmasters and a hellish mine fire ceaselessly burning underground.

Hayter does not call upon the devil on Sinner Get Ready, but her portrayal of God is ruthless. Like the Jehovah of the Old Testament, or the deities of ancient Greece, he is a vengeful, violent presence. On “Many Hands,” over a dirge of bowed zither and scraped guitar strings, Hayter shifts between the perspective of this severe being and a submissive devotee. “Upon your pale pale body I will put many hands,” she sings, recounting the word of God. “And rough, rough fingers for every hole you have.” The song builds into a percussive clatter, a hailstorm of cymbals and castanets and bells that Hayter sourced from nearby antique stores. The din collides with her multi-tracked vocals, which ebb and rise like the rhythmic call-and-response of a fiery church service. In a lull between vibrant bursts of harmony, Hayter stretches her voice above the creeping drone.

Lingua Ignota.

Hayter continues this exploration in “Repent Now Confess Now,” an ambling ballad led by spare piano and surges of cello. She assumes the role of a fire-and-brimstone preacher, reminding congregants that “this body is not your home.” “The surgeon’s precision is nothing,” she sings. “No wound as sharp as the will of God.” But as much as Sinner Get Ready claws at the concept of an all-powerful entity, it also points a sharpened fingernail at the dangerously pious. “The Solitary Brethren of Ephrata” opens with a clip of CNN’s Gary Tuchmanm interviewing Ohio churchgoers about the risks of gathering during the COVID-19 outbreak. When asked if she is concerned about getting sick, one woman responds, “No. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

These spoken segments burble beneath the surface, never overshadowing the music. Instead, they magnify a subtle kind of terror. In “The Sacred Linament of Judgement,” we hear televangelist Jimmy Swaggart apologize to his followers for sexual improprieties. Before he can complete his speech, an audience member shouts “Get off the stage!” with blood-curdling ire. At the beginning of “Man Is Like a Spring Flower,” Hayter places a recording of the sex worker who brought Swaggart’s indiscretions to light. Yet Hayter’s deep respect for devotional music, as performed in “The Solitary Brethren of Ephrata,” recontextualizes her harsh depictions of piety: the grand, major key hymnal is an ode to paradise found. Soaring over braided woodwinds and plucked mandolins, Hayter’s voice attempts to transcend pains of the flesh. She sings of a delusion—but a lovely one. Unlike the spiteful divinity that stalks these songs, Hayter’s music is full of reverence and empathy for our most challenging task: to be human.

This album is the best of 2021. Beautiful, awe-inspiring, and frightening. From the upcoming album “Sinner Get Ready”, out August 6th via Sargent House Records

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