“It’ll be my first gig of 2020!” MSEA—real name Maria-Carmela Raso—says of her album launch concert, which is set for October 16th at Mengi. The album, ‘I Turned Into a Familiar Shape,’ will drop the same day, but it’s been ready since early this year. “We started recording in December and finished at the end of February,” she explains. But then the pandemic started and the world stood still. “I’d anticipated touring this year and wanted to release it in April,” she shrugs. Unfortunately, 2020 had other plans.
The inspiration behind the album
Released on the Myrkfælni label, ‘I Turned Into a Familiar Shape’ was, as the artist explains, written during an abusive relationship. The emotions the artist felt during the relationship and the effect it’s had on her become clearer with every listen of the album. Her soft, gentle vocals battle against striking and dissonant electronic sounds to create a feeling of vulnerability and confusion, while short, repetitive musical phrases with lyrics like, “I still feel you in my body” and “I’ll breathe you into life” become something of a mantra that pulls the listener directly into the singer’s brain.
Despite not being a conscious decision to use the relationship as inspiration for her work, it was clearly an intrinsic part of the album’s creation. “[It] was written throughout that time, but I wasn’t thinking, ‘I’m going to write an album about this,’” she says. “When the relationship was over I wrote more and noticed the songs were all definitely from that period, from that state of mind.”
A rich and vivid experience
But MSEA’s creations go far beyond the audible. Every song conjures up such a vivid sense of colour and texture that they become completely immersive; the sort of music that should be listened to lying down, eyes shut, so that one can fully appreciate all it has to offer. “I often have images in mind when writing,” she reveals. “It could be as simple as rain or ice. Even a smell or a tactile impression, like the feeling of slime. Visuals are very much part of the music, but I think it’s also important for people to hear the music without them to give them the chance to visualise something of their own. The music videos help people jump into the sound world.” Dreamy, otherworldly and hypnotising—the music videos are a stunning addition to the album.
So what about the launch show? “It’ll be solo. Me, a computer, some pedals,” MSEA explains. “I’ll have other bodies on stage, dancing or moving. If I don’t have visuals for my shows it feels like something is missing, so I’m hoping for projections and some set design.”
“I wanted a pretty big theatrical show and then COVID happened,“ she laments, diving into her vision of a larger, higher-production release concert. But while 2020 has made such a show impossible, hopefully 2021 will bring MSEA’s fantasy to life. Until then, we’ll just stream the album and dream.
Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.
You can also check out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!