Sky High Diamonds
Shrill lament, loud laughter, screams of pain or pleasure, eruptions of raw emotions. This monstrous vocalizing opposes Greek virtues of women’s voices.
Sarah Gatter’s voice wraps in swathes in a surging multi-layer contact with the listener.
Don’t Fuck With Me (Cathedral Mix) is raw and honest, an embodied and visceral vocalization. Gatter—who is Sky High Diamonds—says it’s a cathartic piece that is not meant to offend anyone except the person it was written for.
“For me there is nothing more therapeutic than singing the word ‘fuck’ when the intention behind this onomatopoeic word is as clear and precise as this track presents.”
Gatter’s creative process, unveiled, reveals the architecture of feeling, voice and words.
“The engine noise is a direct recording through contact mics of a car engine ticking over and I just love the whirring, revving, methodical, repetitive sounds and vibrations that serve as an ideal musical back drop. The percussion elements of lighting the matches and flicking the lighter were recorded straight into the mic and the very expressive phlegm sound came from Freesound. The track is an angry yet satirical approach that directly addresses an individual who attempts to use masks and manipulative games to try to use, play and dominate others.”
Gatter’s music-making as featured elsewhere on Earlid sometimes lays vocals recorded in one take to capture spontaneity and passion. She’s not afraid to disturb the listener: “My creative sound works pendulum somewhere between well-being and overwhelming discomfort.”
“I tread very carefully and listen very carefully to not only what is being said about female artists but how it is being said.”
Of the wealth of women tinkering away electronically all over the world, Gatter points to recent experiences: “This is an extremely exciting thing.”
In September 2016, I approached some women in electronic music that I had been networking with to see how they felt about a social media takeover for a day on October 1st. The aim of the event was to demonstrate the volume of women, and people identifying as women, involved in electronic music. Many felt this was a really positive move, some were more guarded about it. However, a large group of us came together and posted images of ourselves doing our electronic music thing with the hash tag #womeninelectronicmusic or #iamawomeninelectronicmusic.
It spread quite rapidly on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, with many women under umbrella organizations such as Female Pressure, Female Frequency & Feminatronic posting and reposting images and hash tags alongside other female musicians. It created an interesting ripple effect with some male electronic musicians publicly querying why we felt the need to do it and claiming it wasn’t necessary. A few women echoed that response too. However, the encouraging support from male electronic musicians and many, many female electronic musicians and those identifying as female, far outweighed the concerns of those who did not see the one-day takeover as a positive event.
In private I personally received many messages of support, but many messages queried a similar thing: “Why, why did I/we feel this was necessary?” Replying to those private messages opened a can of worms as some people weren’t really interested in my responses and just wanted to state their views. But some genuinely were interested and were already equipped with some knowledge and motivation to address the imbalances (as they saw them) in the male/female dynamic, not just within music but generally.
Interestingly, I found myself very much having to defend the decision to do the event and experienced quite a back lash from fellow musicians/social media users, which is still gently rippling on almost a year later. It was interesting (for me) to note how publicly on social media there were many peaceful and positive responses to the event but in ‘private,’ on user’s chat feeds, in music chat rooms and through direct messaging I observed behaviors and comments that I feel were directed at me as an attempt to remind me of my place, and some of those reminders came through a distinct style of language and communication that is currently recognized as ‘locker room’ talk. I completely disengaged from those (males and unwittingly involved females) who felt that was an appropriate method of communication. This resulted in my choosing to lose music followers, internet and radio air play and my place in some music groups and forums because I did not wish to be associated with that style of language and communication that seemed to serve only as an attempt to remind me of ‘my place’ and reaffirm theirs.
How and what I choose to communicate through social media, music chat rooms and radio show chat rooms has completely changed since then, mainly resulting in a much more discerning approach to avoid complete disengagement from social media. I tread very carefully and listen very carefully to not only what is being said about female artists but how it is being said. I have since found a few music-based social spaces with integrity, balanced opinions and shared respectful communication styles that do not discriminate, patronize, sexualize or minimize the contributions and potential of female artists, so those spaces are where I choose to talk about and share music these days.
—Sarah Gatter, in recent correspondence with Earlid’s curator
Songstresses aim to say something meaningful. Perhaps it’s the simple act of wrapping a voice around itself; but it’s also in the languages and sounds and very words utilized; whose voices are heard (and where and to whom, as well); whether considered profane and indelicate or even just mundane.
“This track attempts to define communications that are non-explicit, drawing on intuitive and sensorial methods and also endeavors to utilize the panning headphone experience as a sensory device. It is all vocal but vocal that has been stretched, shrunk, reversed, splintered or chopped up into mono tonal components. The track was arranged in layers (or swathes) that ‘wrap themselves around’ and offer recognition to the swirling multi-layered communications that swim all around us. If only we could see them. This very precise, shortened version is based on an original vocal sketch built from looping and over looping the same vocal.”
Sky High Diamonds is the musical outlet of Sarah Gatter, an experimental DIY sound poet, who creates and fine-tunes her work in a loft in Cornwall, UK.