Sep 2023 16

Album CoverDead Voices on Air / Xqui and Dead Voices on Air
Album: SONAH / Pennine
Category: Experimental / Ambient / Industrial / Noise
Label: eMERGENCY hEARTS / Re:Mission Entertainment
Release Date: 2023-04-07 / 2023-07-25
Author: Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)


Given how prolific Mark Spybey and his various cohorts have been with Dead Voices on Air, not to mention the very experimental and abstract nature of the project’s output over three decades, critical assessments tend to be an exercise in futility. There is almost never any “music” involved beyond the barest essentials of rhythm and tone, and even those tend to appear more as afterthought or accident amid the aural streams of consciousness. Still, its impressive just how seemingly bottomless the inspirational well is for DVoA, such that keeping up with new entries in the discography requires the endurance of an Olympic sprinter. As was done in a previous ReView, this article will focus on two of these more recent efforts.

The first of which, SONAH was recorded in the spring of 2023, its four tracks doing little to deviate from Spybey’s modus operandi thus far. The first track begins with a rhythmic chiming progression with lovely swells of ambience that somehow evoke a fatigued yet festive environment; vague melodies seem to linger inconspicuously, as do ghostly voices wisping in and out of the miasma, before shifting yet again to an almost cavernous space wherein some twisted lullaby beckons the listener closer… to what? The following two tracks take on a more pensive, meditative sparseness, the airy pads and loops that gain in breadth and volume building to a noisy tension; synthesized oscillations appear as if to insinuate a tempo, shrill drones drilling and grinding into the psyche, leaving the fourth and final track to wistfully proceed into surreal displays of sustained bass and obscured voices. The track concludes with a rather melodic progression of bell-like or marimba tones that bring SONAH full circle like a recurring dream.

Album CoverTraversing across any landscape, the changes from quiet and austere nature to bustling populated communities, modern industrial spires, and back again are almost imperceptible – such was the inspiration for Spybey and fellow noisemaker Xqui on Pennine, named for the range of hills and valleys running through the spine of England. Consequently, the album’s seven tracks all serve as movements in a collective whole, which may not sound remarkable in itself, though there are specific moments that stand out in rather dramatic fashion. For example, the sonar pings and subsonic oscillations of “Mallerstang” immediately submerge the listener in the iron lung isolation of a submarine, eventually descending into a mélange of odd sounds whose origins are indeterminable, while “Pen-Y-Ghent” seems to be the audio chronicle of a country drive with mechanical loops akin to a stalled car engine, static like the rapidly changing channels of a car radio, and half-head conversations amid disturbed flocks of seagulls.

If you’re familiar with Dead Voices on Air, then it’s fair to say that you know what you’re getting, and SONAH and Pennine do little to disprove that notion. However, it is rather admirable that Mark Spybey is able to maintain such a consistently prodigious pace, seemingly unwavering in his enthusiasm for exploring the boundlessness of sound, as well as in his ability to ensnare others in his communal web of creativity. After all, by the time of this ReView’s publication, we’ve already seen the release of yet another DVoA album, Sero Eight… need more be said?
Track list:

  1. Sonah 1
  2. Sonah 2
  3. Sonah 3
  4. Sonah 4


  1. Hazel Valley
  2. Mickle
  3. Pendle
  4. Mallerstang
  5. Ingleborough
  6. Pen-Y-Ghent
  7. Winter Hill

Dead Voices on Air
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Re:Mission Entertainment
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