Track By Track: Clarissa Connelly – ‘World Of Work’

The Scottish polymath breaks down her enthralling new full-length...

Scotland-born, Copenhagen-based interdisciplinary artist Clarissa Connelly is a luminary like no other. Today Connelly unveils her first album with Warp Records, ‘World Of Work’; a dense, time-travelling tome influenced by “French philosophers, 12th-century letters, visions from Catholic Saints, and William Blake’s poetry.” Connelly notes the two main strands permeating her album are ‘Work’ and ‘Desire’: ‘Work’ reflects the quotidian details in life, and ‘Desire’ exists as something more transcendent and out-of-body. The two exist in tandem, giving us the totality of the human experience.

Across the album’s ten tracks, Connelly synthesises “Nordic folk song, Celtic myth, medieval grimoires, modern pop music, as well as experimental composition and studio practices”. ‘World Of Work’ is imbued with a wicked sense of freedom and sonic abandon; an emotionally complex assemblage of spectral, at times theatrical harmonic lines, and far-out folk.

Clarissa comments:

“I wanted to examine the sound of classical guitar and piano playing unison, and the overtones in the meeting of the two. That’s a big part of the instrumentation of the album; exploring sounds that sound so familiar, but also ring together in harmony on the same note, so the overtones melt together and turn into something else, unfamiliar.

The question I want to ask: is ecstasy holy, or is it meeting the limits of the body? As Bataille says, ecstasy happens through movement. Is that when we oscillate from this world to the next? That was an inspiring thought when writing the music. Physical movement, running can give the feeling of ecstasy, meditating, sexual stimulation, prayer, fasting, when the body meets physical limits, art, music and many more. Some chord progressions give me the feeling of the ceiling popping off – a feeling of ecstasy. Is it only in some state of surprise ecstasy can happen? Or in repetition? 

‘World Of Work’ is an epic tale of human experience, pulled down into the narrow walls of these songs, each song representing different states of our experience.

For CLASH, Clarissa Connelly provides a track-by-track breakdown of her Avant-classical full-length…

Loneliness 

This is the discussion between Work and Desire; Work is saying we’re born alone, we’re going to die alone, Desire is saying we are born into the great beauty of the world. Representing an inner discussion, whether I believe in God, or a greater beauty, or do I only believe in the physical realm. I don’t know but it was good to write an album about it. 

We’re all confronted with death and loss during our lives. I have so many questions, still have, about my own belief. My father has always represented the Church and God in my life, being so strong in his own belief, I had to take distance growing up, and stopped believing in God at a young age, not believing in anything, I’m on my way back into something… A movement towards working into a greater beauty, if it exists, and if we can be a part of it. I wanted to write about this, and that’s what the album is about. Death, God, belief. 

The Bell Tower

The bells were recorded on bornholm (Aa kirke the Church is called), running up the tower to the bells. Bells represent the alarm when in danger, celebration of birth, our mourning in death, our whole construction of time, school, the functions and framework for ‘World Of Work’, creating the walls of the album. 

An Embroidery

Being alone and accepting loneliness when saying goodbye (to our loved ones, but also the version of ourselves, when in the time of great movements in our lives, or in transition). How the unconscious can talk before action. It’s inevitable that something new will come out of loss, death. 

Life Of The Forbidden

This song represents the first warning in ‘World Of Work’. It’s the first mention of the great death, the apocalypse, named as the sky turning. That is mentioned again throughout the record. Work is questioning whether great sacrifice is needed (note as religious practice), to come close to the holy. 

Many of the songs have a climate crisis angle to them, because it’s necessary to talk about. It’s also a representation of all of our deaths, and the apocalypse. There is the personal (small death) in the album, but also the mass destruction (the big death of all), but it’s really just the same. Climate change is also a way to talk and write about the extreme feelings connected to death. Linking the two deaths as one. I wanted to yell that we have to understand that the world is actually burning; we have to let go of our worldly ways to save the planet and our children. 

The Excess of Sorrow, Laughs 

This song is representing another state in the world of work, still questioning but also in acceptance, in peace. Wiser, and knowing that when in extreme emotion, the opposite can show, when in devastating grief we laugh, when in great joy we cry. Work is asking what if death isn’t really that alarming, as we are taught. What if death is a false alarm?

Again, mentioning when the sky turns is the picture of the world ending, the apocalypse, this phrase is also a part of the last song, that is the great ending. S.O.S. Will we believe in God/a greater beauty (seizing the higher) when we die (when the sky turns)? 

Wee Rosebud

In ‘World Of Work’, there is a wee rosebud in the middle. This is a song of development, turning into a grown person, embracing a sensuality in yourself, being a rosebud and opening up, being vulnerable, honest. 

It’s inspired by Hildegaard’s vocal pieces. She says she didn’t write them, the angels sang to her while in prayer, and all she did was write them down. It is interesting working with letting the unconscious flow, that’s how I wrote the song, walking and walking, not listening to anything and being alone, letting the mind open itself, as it will always do when in certain situations. When do great ideas come to you? Maybe in that state of the unconscious, or whatever you call it. We all have a wee rosebud within ourselves, and that is an important place to be in touch with. It’s one of the things that clearly grows out of loss and death. 

Turn To Stone

Representing the exact opposite of ‘Rosebud’, when closing our hearts/turning to stone. The counterpoint, when we can’t let go, we get stuck, and turn into stone. That’s a very human thing to do, there is no movement in it, maybe that’s the scary part really. 

Tenderfoot

This is the perspective of Desire, saying that there is a greater beauty, and magic does exist. ‘Tenderfoot’ represents the child in us all, desire says that there are dangers in this world of work, the travel is tough, but this song will help and carry our sorrows because that’s what magic is. Its music, Desire says. 

Crucifer 

As turn to stone, this song also represents the counterpoint. ‘Crucifer’ is the great sacrifice, (Jesus is a symbol of sacrifice) and questioning the rules of Christianity. Saying again, you couldn’t let go, (your demons are creeping by (as in our stubbornness and coldness are the demons). 

In the lyrics, Desire is sitting up in the heavens talking down to Work, saying the world is random and therefore evil. Some are born blessed, some into endless night. The war is not over until the last call, until all are saved. 

Song of the sword 

The album’s ending is the great ending/mass destruction/apocalypse. Work is walking around on earth and the songs of grief and sorrow are following them around, as they do in our lives.

With death comes great acceptance, and one of the main questions of the album is asked again: “What will I believe when the sky turns?” Will we then believe in the greater beauty/in God once our death is near? Death is the ultimate movement, ecstasy at its full in the world of work, it’s the full movement into the world of desire, and that is where the album ends. 

‘World Of Work’ is out now. Clarissa Connelly will perform a headline show at Kings Place on May 15th. Get your tickets here.

Photo Credit: Amy Gwatkin

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