MJ Guider – Temporary Requiem

9.7.21 by Matty McPherson

We don’t talk about the anime, the Big O, enough on Tabs Out. Let me go ahead and rectify that. One of my favorite moments of the Japanese robot anime (about people living in a post-apocalypse simulation of NYC (or something)), is when the show briefly touches on the remnants of religion. No one knows why, but every Sunday a congregation of amnesiacs descend towards a crumbled church, where they sing songs of a foreign tongue that no one remembers; an urge beyond their comprehension drives them. It’s a story that has been on my mind as I’ve been giving Kranky-gazer MJ Guider’s (aka Melissa Guion’s) new tape Temporary Requiem a magnitude of spins. You see, Temporary Requiem is a six part music score for an experimental mass performed in 2018 and 2019. It came out of a collaborative effort with choreographer Ann Glaviano, seeking to “build and break down a lost church over the span of the performance.” 

The New Orleans-based artist had a definitive level up on last year’s Sour Cherry Bell, using her signature ambient reverb as a groundwork for propulsive, introverted headphases. Guider has mentioned the effect of New Orleans on her work — how it imparts a subconscious, romantic quality to those tracks; one equally made to drown under and much as garner a featherweight strength in its shadows. Sour Cherry Bell also made a noticeable double down on movement — whether that be a chiaroscuro step or an industrial hopscotch — that could shift on a dime. It effectively put the album in a Kranky lineage dating back to Bowery Electric’s Beat, as much as it left a new ripe ground to dig into.

When I briefly chatted with Guion about dance and working with Glaviano, I was struck at how open-minded the boundaries of dance the two were working with. Movement could be subtle as much as discrete, a larger mental modus operandi than afforded credit. And yes, Guion’s sound of “bass, drum, loops, laptop, vocals” is indeed ripe for dance. This expanded emphasis on movement came through on Guider’s two 2021 releases on her new imprint, modemain: the “matanzas/vinales” 7” and the aforementioned “Temporary Requiem” cassette. Both were worked on during the same span of time as SCB and are described as constituting a trinity of this era of MJ Guider. “Temporary Requiem” also happens to be Guider’s first tape in 7 years (since debuting on Constellation Tatsu). In that time, the purples and whites of her palette have opened up towards a faded red. Although it took me a moment to realize the white wolf I thought I saw on the cover was actually a close-up of feet in the middle of a “mass for dance.”

The six tracks presented here are experiments structured by this unique commission. Yet, Guion’s return to mass, years post-Roman Catholic high school and touring with noted metalheads Thou, have recontextualized her wheelhouse of tricks: Opener “Kyrie: The Stained Glass Windows in Their Original Order” stretches her sound to a nearly ten-minute sacramental shuffle; echoing hi-hats running like clockwork kick up quite the trance.  Dissected and altered Latin requiem passages, turned into aching chorus pieces expanding her aching voice into one of many on “Credo: Here and Gone” and “Agnus Dei…” The improv “Benedictus: Tribute to Leviathan, Her Ancestors, and Her Progeny,” summons an omnibus drone equally as glacial as Amulets. A wholly unexpected, rapturous display of fury. It’s a space I did not anticipate to find Guion, yet…

For an artist whose music has often struck me as true “heads down, blinders on” headphone listen, there is something mighty grand seeing all these elements laid down on a soundsystem. The codifiers or genre-signifiers that knee-cap the prowess of reverb, are evaded. Guion’s sound is eerier and far more inquisitive. She’s moved beyond anything that could be regulated to that sphere, as she weaves her own architecture outright. On “Temporary Requiem,” MJ Guider reached for the sublime and arrived on the other side with 2021’s strongest left-field act of spiritualism, and really that’s about all I can think about before I put it back on in a minute here.

Clear tape dubbed by Cryptic Carousel with a hand-stamped risograph insert printed by Constance edition of 100 SOLD OUT at the source; check your Chicago record store or Discogs, they’ll have copies.