Quietly released between two major Mamiffer releases: last year's Crater with Daniel Menche and the upcoming The World Unseen, this limited cassette solo release from Faith Coloccia, under the name of Mára hopefully will not get lost in the shuffle. Surfacing is a sparse, intimate tape that showcases some of her contributions to the more dramatic Mamiffer sound and deserves just as many accolades as her better known "primary" project.
Clocking in at around 18 minutes, Surfacing is a short collection of seven songs, most of which focus on Coloccia's voice and piano, with a tasteful amount of electronics and processing scattered throughout. These elements often appear on Mamiffer records, but here, isolated, their impact is even more significant. Recorded to a four track and a hand-held tape recorder, she strips her music down to the barest of essentials, which stand beautifully in their simplicity.
The opening "The Gift of Life" and closing "Healing for the Wounded" have Coloccia working from a similar melodic theme, and while the arrangements are intentionally sparse, the details shine through in the unassuming austerity. Both pieces feature her vocals layered in such a way that juxtaposes delicateness and power, and the former’s ambient ending is brilliantly continued in the latter’s introductory moments.
Her ethereal voice acts as the centerpiece of "Saint'Elia a Piansi," multitracked wonderfully and accompanied by a simple piano passage, woven together into a song that seems all too short. Both "Nothing of Everything" and "Love and Infinity" have melodies that are a bit on the lower register end of the piano, and coupled with Coloccia's reverberated vocals there is a more spectral feel to them, the latter especially punctuating her lighter vocals with some more bass heavy piano notes.
The two more electronic tinged pieces have a distinctly different feel to them, but still one that resonates with Coloccia's singular sound. "Warmth, Shelter, Oblivion" features her vocals up front and clear over a swirling, lush arrangement of processed tones and echoing voice, weaving a dark and bleak tale. "Flask of Hermes" is for the most part an instrumental piece that stands out as the most oddly dissonant on an otherwise gentle release. Low fidelity recorded piano and an incidental radio broadcast are mixed together in a noise-tinged haze that, while by far the least beautiful moment on the tape, still results in a brilliantly strange centerpiece and excels with its unexpectedness.
I have always been a big fan of Faith Coloccia's untreated vocals and piano work that have been scattered throughout her projects for years, so being able to hear them standing here on their own, recorded with an intimate closeness that brings out the strong and soft timbres of her voice perfectly. The songs never feel incomplete throughout, but the overall brevity of Surfacing is its only shortcoming.