By Paddy Kinsella
Sips of Oxygen from Brooklyn choral trio, Alma, is an existential-crisis-invoking ode to the thin veil separating life from death.
As I type this on a phone that can navigate through satellites in the sky, and video call someone on the opposite side of the world, it’s bemusing that life itself is still reduced to something as simple and unnoticeable as breathing in and out. Alma’s made-for-a-cathedral harmonies leave us as powerless at their alter as we are to the march of death.
However, what really sets the trio apart is how seamlessly they interweave the song’s textures. Made up of two engineers and one film-maker, this ability perhaps comes down to their day jobs. As skilled as architects as they are as singers, they segue between the home video recording that makes for the intro and the opening choral harmony with such subtlety that the change is hardly noticeable.
The ending is executed in similar fashion, the trio’s voices drifting off into the ether as in the distance we hear what sounds like a shutter coming down. The Slit’s guitarist, Viv Albertine, wrote this of her mother’s death: ‘[There was] no scrabbling for air, no gasping for breath. No warning she was going to die.’ Perhaps, like the conclusion of this song, there is little ceremony at the end of it all. The breath simply expires, and we do with it.
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