What’s the point of a reissue label? Some take the route of repressing much loved classics and making them available again, while others might cherry pick from an artist or label’s back catalogue for the sake of putting out compilations. The idea of a reissue label from both the people at Finders Keepers and ultimate diggers Demdike Stare would give any seeker of outsider music a bit of a hard-on, and Dead-Cert Pressings’ inaugural release would seem to justify it. The point of Dead-Cert is to reissue music that truly nobody has heard, and its first release, Suzanne Ciani’s Voices of Packaged Souls, was just that. Originally pressed up in a run of only 50 for an art gallery exhibition in Brussels, it was the musical counterpart of Harold Paris’ “hard-material” sound sculptures. Ciani herself has recently been in the spotlight for early electronic nerds with the Finders Keeper’s Lixiviation compilation, which showcased both her commercial and avant-garde Buchla experiments before she went on to be a Grammy-nominated New Age artist.
Voices of Packaged Souls is even stranger than the Lixiviation material, and highly conceptual: each “voice” is introduced with bilingual narration in English and French, giving it a slightly artsy-fartsy edge (by no means a bad thing). There are 13 voices in total, including an introduction and trippy outro, some being short, creepy oddities while others seem a bit more composed. “Sound of Heat” is the longest thing here, and it suits its title well, with jabbing, rhythmic dings dancing around long-burning noises that at times flare up to scald the listener. The fourth voice, “Sound of Wetness,” is a technoid fever-dream, while the “Sound of an Eye Tearing” contains the eerie moans of an infant (which says a lot about Ciani’s mastery of the Buchla’s voice modulation capabilities). On the flip things get noisier at some points (“Sound of Bones Growing”), but quite tender at others (the dream-like “Sound of a Lighted Window”). Voices of Packaged Souls is a concise listen at only 20 minutes, but a potent one, with an impressive amount of ideas packed into each groove. It serves partially as a history lesson, exposing the sounds of one of electronic music’s most important early machines to a generation with little experience in the field of modular synthesizers. It would be quite a stale listen, however, if it weren’t for Ciani’s innovative approach to music, so with Voices of Packaged Souls Dead-Cert Pressings have unearthed quite the forgotten gem.