Gilded from the depths of the underworld of the Internet age, Toronto-based Bekah Simms’ corrosive debut album Impurity Chains is an eclectic collection of her chamber works, many of which involve deeply intertwined electronics. Performed by various artists, Simms’ works here are clearly influenced by the idea of overlapping influences (from doom metal to Newfoundland folksong); her cunning, high-strung approach and technical flair are what lend these works their charisma.
The harrowing opener, Microlattice, sets the tone with its devastating tubular bells and its thrilling dynamic extremes. The Newfoundland folk influence shows up most prominently in Slept Unwell (with vocal deconstructions from “The Maiden’s Lament”) and in swallow/breathe, which is based on the classic “She’s Like the Swallow,” and is expertly performed with nuance by the Madawaska Quartet. The album’s two centrepiece compositions, Granitic and Everything is….Distorted, showcase Simms’ devotion to exploring the intersection between acoustic and electroacoustic—by bridging the connection through carefully placed percussive moments or through introducing electric guitar into the timbral palette. Granitic feels like the most personal and free of the works: this is music that circles around, that pulls at an innocuous thread that unravels into a horrifying, anxiety-ridden tangle. The title track Impurity Chains acts as an expansive, patient coda, allowing listeners to awaken from the dream.