TVD Radar: Diamanda Galás, The Divine Punishment vinyl reissue planned for 2022

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On June 10 Diamanda Galás will re-release of The Divine Punishment via Intravenal Sound Operations. Remastered, this 1986 classic will be available via all DSPs and on CD. The vinyl version will be released later in 2022.

On June 30, 1986, the same day that Diamanda Galás’s The Divine Punishment was released, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Georgia’s so-called sodomy law in Bowers v. Hardwick, criminalizing consensual sex between men. At the time, about 15,000 people were known to have died of AIDS in the U.S. alone, with little government acknowledgement besides suggestions to quarantine homosexuals on island colonies. By the end of 2021, the number of AIDS deaths globally would exceed 36 million.

The first album in her Masque of the Red Death trilogy, The Divine Punishment is one of the most jarring works of art produced in response to the AIDS epidemic, and a milestone in Diamanda Galás’s artistry and activism. Galás uses her famous voice both as an orational instrument and as well as a physical representation of AIDS and those it afflicts.

The album features the panphonic* dirge work of Galás, accompanied by analogue synthesizers and piano played by Diamanda Galás with additional synthesizer work by Dave Hunt. The texts are primarily taken from the Old Testament, contrasting the hectoring lawmakers of Leviticus with the desperate appeals of the Lamentations and Book of Psalms (Psalm 22, 59, and 88). In doing so, she indicts those who use religion to instigate the witch hunts that inevitably accompany real and perceived plagues.

1986 was a year marked by global political turmoil and disasters both natural and man-made: Chernobyl, the space shuttle Challenger, Reagan’s race-driven wars on drugs and welfare while opposing sanctions against apartheid South Africa. The Washington Post wrote, in a year-end editorial: “It was a year in which a new spirit of patriotism and national well-being, proud heralds of the ’80s, was tarnished by evidence of a new wave of greed, a lowering of ethical standards of conduct, a celebration of self over country, a crisis of government spawned by duplicity and hypocrisy in high places, a breakdown of technological prowess… Not since the turbulent ’60s, a time of national tragedy and breakdown, had so many things gone so stunningly awry.”

Meanwhile, the music industry was enjoying its most profitable year in history, as compact discs began their lucrative rise. Many artists—Janet Jackson, Run DMC, Peter Gabriel, Beastie Boys, Robert Cray—had commercial breakthroughs, while major labels were mining the semi-underground for bands like Hüsker Dü and The Smiths. The top-selling single in the U.S. was “That’s What Friends Are For,” which raised a laudable $3 million for AmFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) while keeping the disease at such arm’s length that most connections between the song and AIDS are long forgotten. Perhaps the only artists confronting reality in as visceral way as Galás in 1986 were, depending on your perspective, Slayer, Swans, or Schoolly D.

Today, The Divine Punishment sounds no less audacious than when it was released, but one hears it with a sense of shared trauma and a renewed call to action. Galás imbues all her work with the crushing weight of history—the hypnotic cadences of her vocal work are precisely aligned to the liturgical texts employed. Remastered with exceptional clarity by mastering engineer Heba Kadry working from the original mixes by London-based producer/ composer Dave Hunt, it’s a work of great empathy, solidarity, and physical power. Coming amid another pandemic marked by ignorance and division, its anger and fervor feels remarkably urgent.

ABOUT DIAMANDA GALÁS | A composer, vocalist, and activist, Diamanda Galás is one of the most uncompromising and influential avant-garde performers of the last thirty years, with an extensive catalog of work that is often oppressive but always thrilling.

Galás has collaborated with Vinko Globokar in the opera Un Jour Comme Une Autre (1978),which was inspired by Amnesty International’s account of the arrest and torture of a Turkish woman for treason. She also performed Xenakis’ N’shima under his tutelage in 1980 with L’Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Brooklyn Philharmonia. In 1982 Galás released her debut album, The Litanies of Satan, which set the stage for extended forays into vocal experimentation, improvisation, and manipulation; and which included the 15-minute solo piece titled “Wild Women With Steak Knives.” Her eponymous album included “Song from the Blood of Those Murdered,” which was dedicated to the victims of the Greek Junta that ruled Greece from 1967-1974.

Diamanda Galás continues to deal with mortality, isolation, and the abuse of power. Her new and forthcoming work, Broken Gargoyles, concerns the facially-mutilated and stigmatized soldiers from WWI and their diseased comrades, who were isolated in industrial buildings until their death. Broken Gargoyles will be released this fall.

ABOUT INTRAVENAL SOUND OPERATIONS | In 1977 Diamanda Galás began her own vocal research into what she describes as the “shredding of complex vocal sound into slivers moving back and forth to the host sound.” Her work in the area would be published in 1982 by Perspectives of New Music. This manifesto was entitled “Intravenal Song.” Galás was very excited about the parallels between her work and the subtractive synthesis of complex sound by Iannis Xenakis. Since that time she has championed his work.

*nomos polykephalikos (many-headed, Gorgonic)

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