This debut LP from Glasgow-based artist Maria Rossi is a perfectly judged and executed marriage of stoic, so-sparse-it’s-barely-there minimal techno, leaky bedsit field recordings and her own sublimely hymnal vocals. Combining choral, quasi-ecclesiastical uplift with a glottal surrealism at times reminiscent of CDF’s work in F ingers (or maybe just an awks exchange in the Black Lodge), Rossi, who is originally from Finland, sings in a tongue of her own devising – a language, as Night School put it, for some mythological Fourth World we’ve yet to create. It is, ultimately, a record that transcends language, communicating something pure and ancient and BEYOND.
Rossi’s voice is versatile, dextrous and multi-layered, but she doesn’t show off with it, doesn’t allow herself to be seduced by it – no, she uses it with precision and restraint. Her tone is pure, her phrasings spare, at times channelling Alison Statton and Angela Conway’s jaded choirgirls – the gloomy drum-box, walking bassline and can’t-stand-the-rain ambience of ‘Avainsana’, which eventually lock into a funereal house rhythm, is like YMGs / AC Marias by way of Mille Plateaux – but on the O-Superman-at-sea sway of ‘Kupariumpu’ and ‘Electra’ she admits a more soulful inflection into her voice's grain, one that takes us away from post-punk affectlessness and into a warmer, blissier realm.
There is not one dud track, each one feels unique and also an essential part of the whole, but special mention must go to ‘Huhuilu’ (with its space-age bossa pulsations, and a vocal take that recalls Jessika Kenney’s Javanese-influenced stuff, it sounds at once crisply futuristic and as old as time itself) and to the cold, Terminator synth/folk-scape ‘Totean’, which sounds like Ksiezyc washed up at the Hague and cut a track with Sammy Osmo. Unbelievably good.
Cucina Povera refers to the proud southern Italian cooking tradition that’s all about simplicity and making-do - it's an apt handle for Rossi, who throughout Hilja coaxes minimal elements into jaw-droppingly maximal effect. Released in an edition of 300, in screen-printed sleeves, Hilja is top-to-bottom beautiful, a DIY tour de force - and further evidence that we are living in a GOLDEN AGE.