Puce Mary: The Red Desert

The Red Desert’ assembles in layers: loping bass alternates between octaves, raspy continuants top and bottom of the register, randomized clicks over a percussive loop; a susurrus of far off industry, or a cataract softened.

A woman’s voice, calmly narrates the indices of her decline in barely accented Danish English:

I find myself feeling like decades have passed

I’m an old woman now and I have lost my attraction

I’m tortured by a feeling of drowning

Under you, under society, politics

The decay of nature

My lack of interest[1]

Puce Mary (aka Frederikke Hoffmeier) speaking, like Poe’s Valdemar, from a point beyond life – if life can be said to have a beyond, a within.

If, like Poe’s protagonist, she is hypnotized into a semblance of existence, she does not spare herself. She afflicts her afterlife, hurting in us, for us; as noise layers in the track afford tinnitus to come.

The album from which the ‘Red Desert’ is the fifth track is titled ‘The Drought’ – as it happens the name of one of J G Ballard 60’s disaster novels. As in Ballard’s work, this pre-emption of catastrophe implies both a burgeoning complicity with inhuman forces and a posture of subtraction. The subtraction of human bonds and of any claim to the name creates the space for it to begin. Hers is a movement of withdrawal repeated over several tracks – from bodies, from the normativity of the sexual, from any contract or concern with the soi disant ‘human’.

To all intents and purposes, it begins lyrically. An inner life is contraposed with the inert realm of a dead, dying nature. As Hoffmeier says:

I feel my eyes tearing up

What should I do with them?

Should I watch?

I can’t look at the sea for long

I’ll lose interest in what’s happening on land

Even in Hell one retains a seed of self-recognition, for it is a condition of your suffering. Thus in the hollowness of this reduced state, Hoffmeier enunciates something authentic:

I want to look at something real

To hear a human voice

And trust that it comes from a human voice

To trust that it comes from a human

Who was made like me

Hoffmeier evinces uncertainty about the origin of the voice, due both to its dubious production methods and the problematic identification of a body. If both are in doubt, this extends surely to the listener who only hears this plaint towards the end as a loop, sinking into a blizzard of static:

To touch a pair of lips

And at the same time know

That it was a pair of lips

To watch everything is so deceptive

To listen is also deceptive …. The position of spectator or subject assigns no privileged relation to the supposed human vocal organs behind a pair of lips. The voice does not come from a pair of lips, but a processed sound file, mimetized in its repetition as the track ends and fades.

In memorializing her passion, the narrator marks the difference between the lyrical subjectivity she alludes to without perseverance. There can be no lyric after nature. She cannot persevere when the voice and nature are equally uncertain, even if this suspense is a the defining allegorical power of lyric. A self-authenticating power of self-relinquishment (de Man). This is not only of the body disconnected from its sexual allure, but of the epistemology of the human itself. At this stage we must ask for whom or what is Hoffmeier’s narrator memorializing? Who will listen, after nature?

On another track, ‘The Transformation’, the narrator is anatomized and minutely scrutinized by one she no longer recognizes in turn: ‘a monster, like you, is beyond my understanding’ – one who searches for the vices deep inside her ‘like a scientist looking for a mysterious phenomenon’.

At the end of the track the negation becomes virulent and everything decays, transforms ‘Now you have neither shape nor size’. Things have become wayward, estranged from their qualities. She can only communicate this dissipated condition through contradiction:

He pulls his hand out of his pocket

But that is not a hand

And that is not a pocket

I pull a hair out of my mouth

But that is not a hair

And that is not my mouth

The epistemological spiral ramifies. Her body, yours, mine, opaque. Our innerness dark of and with possibility. We can no longer trust our voices; that lyrical substance between the self-authenticating ‘I’ and its supposed natural frame.

In the Drought, everything’s sourceless. Why do we even speak of sound sources?

Yet what remains isn’t vacant, but a kind of churning incipience, a violent ascesis between process and event. The voice does not know itself, cannot trust its mouth to speak, suspecting its latent monstrousness.

 

 

 

 


[1] Puce Mary, ‘The Red Desert’, The Drought, 2018.

 

 I find myself feeling like decades have passed

I’m an old woman now and I have lost my attraction

I’m tortured by a feeling of drowning

Under you, under society, politics

The decay of nature

My lack of interest

And I feel desperate

 

This one experience under my skin forever

Like the trauma of child abuse

I feel my eyes tearing up

What should I do with them?

Should I watch?

I can’t look at the sea for long

I’ll lose interest in what’s happening on land

 

I want to look at something real

To hear a human voice

And trust that it comes from a human voice

To trust that it comes from a human

Who was made like me

To touch a pair of lips

And at the same time know that it was a pair of lips

To watch everything is so deceptive

 

To hear a human voice

And trust that it comes from a human

Who was made like me

To touch a pair of lips

And at the same time know

That it was a pair of lips

To watch everything is so deceptive

 

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