Invisible Anatomy’s new album Dissections explores the dangers and joys of being vulnerable with other people. The title suggests both emotional and medical implications—which is why the album dissects our interpersonal relationships through the musical imagery of an operating room.
Invisible Anatomy is comprised of vocalist Fay Wang, cellist Ian Gottlieb, guitarist Brendon Randall-Myers, percussionist Benjamin Wallace, and keyboardists Paul Kerekes and Daniel Schlosberg. They draw from a variety of genres—classical, rock, jazz—and incorporate elements of performance art and theatre to create dramatic, multi-dimensional music. While the ensemble works collaboratively to write the texts and workshop pieces, members start the composing process individually, so each piece approaches the album’s theme of human intimacy in a unique way.
Wang’s “Facial Polygraph XVIA” is a dissection of facial expressions, analyzing what can be learned about someone from their tics and tells. Combining sustained, dissonant chords in the strings with quick, seemingly random melodic lines, the intricate piece highlights the complexity of our emotions and how difficult it can be to decipher the meaning behind each gesture. Fittingly, Wang’s haunting, whispery vocals weave in and out of the foreground, at times blending into the instrumental riffs to emphasize the mystery of expressions.
“Pressing Issues,” Kerekes’s piece, creates composite melodies by allowing each instrument, including Wang’s voice, to contribute a few sounds at a time. This creates a kaleidoscopic listening experience, artfully representing the internal chaos we experience when we’re juggling too many thoughts and conflicting emotions.
Gottlieb’s two-part composition “Threading Light” is a surgical metaphor, with the piano representing a human body and the cello, guitar, and vibraphone representing the knife. In part one, a heartbeat monitor beeps mechanically over suspenseful dissonance in the strings, with short bursts of percussion alluding to the fear and uncertainty of surgery. Part two features a creepy, atonal melody created by weaving instrumental lines together—the resulting dissonance hinting at the painful aftermath for the patient, perhaps even death.
Also split into two parts is “A Demonstration,” Schlosburg’s musical representation of Leonardo da Vinci’s fascination with examining human cadavers. In “the cause,” with intense, percussive accompaniment, Wang uses extended techniques to emulate a shortness of breath. She repeats over and over again the words “the cause of,” each time including a new human function: breathing, sneezing, vomiting. Gentle, but eerie, “where the soul is” references da Vinci’s search for physical evidence of the soul in the human body. Pure, otherworldly vocals purposefully clash with the clanging, incoherent instrumentals. The piece becomes both a tribute to the amazing progress we’ve made and a reminder that an obsessive desire to understand can be dangerous.
Randall-Myers’s “Permission” and “Othering” address the discomfort we often feel when we open up to others. With rock and jazz influences, “Permission” asks what is and isn’t okay between two people as they become close. At times the intense, moving lines in the strings and piano yield to a delicate but disturbing vibraphone pattern as Wang sings, “You let me in. You must have wanted this,” allowing the dark implications of this closeness to dominate the piece.
“Othering,” which tells the story of an encounter with someone who exists on the margins of society, is more hopeful. The honest, heart-wrenching lyrics explain how much easier it is for us to see someone in this position as merely “the other,” but that when we get closer, this becomes impossible. A beautifully warm string motif punctuates the darker vocal lines, suggesting that there is hope for compassion and understanding.
With a fusion of styles and compelling texts, Dissections tackles the questions it poses about emotional intimacy in diverse, impactful ways. It’s a hauntingly beautiful, thought-provoking examination of the ways we interact, and the ways in which we harm and help those we care about most.