Ela Stiles

Ela Stiles

Day 3 of PopLib’s unofficial Australian Music Month is something hauntingly bare and strange from Sydney musician Ela Stiles. Those paying attention to Australian underground pop over the last 5 years will know Ela from hard-to-Google Sydney band Songs (who did a split 7” single with The Bats a few years ago).

I haven’t heard the whole self-titled album yet but this song and the description is enough to catch my interest and add it to my must-get list. “It is her voice alone that fills the listener’s ear, and then her voice again, rising and falling in different vocal patterns both rhythmic and melodic, turning in on itself and creating layers of startling sound… A single vocal becomes far more powerful than amplified sound…”

It is a brave and intriguing minimalist recording for both Ela and for Queensland underground DIY & psychedelic rock label Bedroom Suck Records to release.

This song seems both familiar and contemporary (particularly the final wonderful 15 seconds) and yet also completely foreign, ancient and other-wordly. I have no idea about the origins of this song. Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith. However the feeling I get here is reminiscent to me more of a Celtic lament.

One of the days I was in Sydney in late April the heavens opened and it poured with rain. I sheltered in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. One of the exhibits in the Sydney Biennale exhibition on at the time was a video installation by Angelica Mesiti depicting a vocal performance of mourning songs by Enza Pagliara filmed on location at the Ear of Dionysius, an ancient limestone cave carved out of the Temenites Hill in the Sicilian city of Syracuse. The haunting starkness of the voices on ‘Kumbh Mela’ By Ela Stiles reminds me of that.