Nina Dante + Bethany Younge “Lizard Tongue”

I love when I hear something and have no idea what I think about it and am generally just confused. Lizard Tongue is such an album and even after multiple listens, I’m not sure I’ve come to any real conclusion other than continued intrigue as I find myself thinking about this wonderfully bizarre album and returning to it with some regularity. That may be the biggest endorsement I can give it, but truthfully Lizard Tongue is oddly visceral and wholly fascinating.

Described as “a conversation with the stones, with the air, with the branches of trees, with the living leaves, with the water, and with the songs of creatures reimagined through the human psyche,” Lizard Tongue sounds utterly alien. Dante and Young utilize an organic palette of instruments and objects to create this strange sonic landscape that bounces between aural dream zones and trenchant nightmares. 

Opener “The Stones Discuss” is guttural, the dueling grunts and rolling rock percussive elements chasing ancient energy deep into the soil. There’s an aspect to the vocal incantations that are Tazartès-esque, but the dual nature of Dante and Young adds multiple timbral elements that exist in their own unique space. Horror endures, but the stones keep moving. As Lizard Tongue moves into “The Shells Dance,” the black skies part, and using potent breathing techniques, an airiness lifts the track like a body held aloft by invisible strings. Voices rise with discordant harmonies, hypnotically moving through the tiny spaces left by rattling, scratching shells while holding the growls at bay.

Dante and Younge have an incredible range in the ways they can bend and stretch their voices into different aural shapes. Charmaine Lee does something similar, though she grinds out visceral extremes in almost-inhuman ways, Lizard Tongue’s added musical and natural elements add further mystery. Jew’s harp and clay flute complement their vocals, sure, but in the end, the diverse, innate sonic mastery of those vocals shines brightest. Whether it’s the sound of trilling bubbles on “The Birds of the Heavens Sing to the Reptiles and the Reptiles Sing Back” or the breathy pull that develops into a full-blown cosmic duet on standout “The Breathing Sands,” Nina Dante and Bethany Younge create an evolving ocean of sound I can’t stop swimming in. Lizard Tongue is one of the most memorable albums I’ve heard all year.

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