I think the first time I really understood the work of Christina Nemec, aka Chra fully was at Berlin Atonal in 2015. Her sound is built to fill chasms, and the cool, echoing concrete chambers of Mitte’s Kraftwerk provided the ideal setting to experience it.
Her latest release, the JSMË dispensed ‘A Wounded Deer’ cassette has captured the feeling I had at that performance perfectly; yes, there is a dark, foreboding quality to the music, yet it is also about letting it wash over you. If you are willing to submit, the experience can be meditative and oddly calming.
From my discussions with Nemec, it would appear her first forays into the world of making music were playing bass in post-punk and new-wave bands in the ’70s and ’80s, but always with one eye on what was happening in the burgeoning world of electronic music.
Understanding this feels somewhat important when confronted with her most recent release; the ever-present amplifier buzz, and distortion caked swells strongly evokes this world. ‘Lost’ for example centers around a riff which could have been recorded during a Shadows jam session, although slowed to micro-speed and shrouded in creaking, nightmarish drones.
There is a density to Nemec’s sound which contributes to the hypnotic, dream-like quality her releases seem to have. ‘A Wounded Deer Leaps The Highest’ layers cloudy discordant textures across its duration. This is music for the witching hour; clattering industrial hits, vaporous low-end, and jangling strings evoke the most abstract of Lovecraftian hallucinations.
The itching granular modulations of ‘Fire In The Frozen Lake’ make another good example. Aqueous drones and shuddering stop-start crescendos work to a grinding close. Unexpectedly clean bleeps sometimes break free from the mist, as if stirring from a dream.
Over the years Nemec has taken many different approaches. There were the post-punk days mentioned earlier, her involvement in Blackest Ever Black band Shampoo Boy alongside Peter Rehberg and Christian Schachinger, as well as more glitch and dance focused Chra releases for labels like Editions Mego and the label she runs Comfortzone. ‘A Wounded Deer’ presents a good snapshot of where Nemec is at right now, and where her sound might carry her in the future.