music | 6th january 2017
Winding through the damp, narrow gully lined with ramshackle houses, it’s easy to see how Holloway Road has remained a haven for reclusive musicians, anarchic artists and questionable characters.
words: gussie larkin
photographs: russell kleyn
photographers assistant: ch'lita collins
The street lends itself to all sorts of stories - it’s been host to a brothel, a murder and a Black Power house to name a few. Go beyond the dead-end however, and you’ll find the serene Waimapihi reserve, a dense, native forest split down the middle by a slow trickling stream, encircled with mossy punga. Valley dweller Charlotte Forrester, who makes music under the name WOMB, comes here to gather thoughts and energy to channel into her sonic offerings, “Anytime I’m feeling crazy or chaotic, the forest is the best place for that,” she says, leading us through the shady trees. Charlotte spends her days exploring the bush, writing and recording in her cosy Aro Valley bedroom, and working the odd day at Rinski Korsakov’s in Berhampore. The music of WOMB is dreamy, sensual, and with earthy themes at its core it’s no wonder Charlotte finds comfort in the forest.
“Anytime I’m feeling crazy or chaotic, the forest is the best place for that”
Although WOMB was born as a solo project, Charlotte soon recruited her twin brother/musical soulmate Haz to play guitar and sister Georgette to drum for her, whom she says were unquestionable choices, as well as adding extra authenticity to the band’s name. “I also feel like all the songs are about intense connections, and that’s what’s encapsulated in a womb,” she adds. The trio’s unique connectivity is most alive in their live performance, with Charlotte’s lofty vocal melodies soaring above Georgette’s pared back beats, while Haz is the atmosphere king. It’s obvious the band are truly listening to each other, and they want the audience to feel it too; “A real performance to me is when you all feel the same energy, then so does everyone in the room,” says Charlotte, “Any show we haven’t been happy with, it’s been because we haven’t had the right energy.”
2016 saw WOMB release four singles, two of which were a venture into ambience she hadn’t tapped into before. The songs came organically following a week of bedridden sickness and reading her way through a stack of books on queer ecology; “It’s the idea that humans and nature are part of a kind of mesh. It’s like you’re not the same thing as nature - you’re different but you’re made of the same substance” she says, “I was doing all this reading but I was stuck in the confines of my room - I had really bad cabin fever. So I went over to the forest and it was crazy because everything just looked so vibrant. I think I was delirious!” As she followed the path deeper and the light faded, Charlotte found herself more and more entranced by her surroundings, recording the sounds of the stream on her phone along the way. “After that I got into this torpedo of making ambient music and I guess that was the manifestation of what had happened in the forest,” she says, recalling the late nights she spent huddled over a keyboard.
“After that I got into this torpedo of making ambient music and I guess that was the manifestation of what had happened in the forest”
While WOMB’s earlier recordings conjure up images of cosmic environments through the lyrics, her latest creations transport the listener through the sonic landscape. Charlotte is a master of textures, and her trademark reverb-soaked vocal layering forms a warm bed for the other instruments to lie upon, most notably in the track ‘Fucking Close to Water’. Her recordings of the stream became the starting point for the gently ethereal track, which she then layered with washed out vocal harmonies and smooth cello melodies. The song has an organic ebb and flow to it, and Charlotte attributes this to her writing process; “The song was a meditation in the actual process of making it because it’s all based on repetition. The song wasn’t even important,” she says, “The making of the song was just a really grounding experience.”
With plans to release an ambient album this year as well as recording the live band, Charlotte stresses the importance of being free to explore genres within the WOMB. “I want to keep WOMB as boundless as possible,” she says, “It would be cool to make some dance music with Haz as well.” Creating comes out of a compulsion for Charlotte, but no matter how deep she ventures into the forest, she always comes back to her instincts; “There are recurring things I want to express in music - they’re very personal. I feel like they’ll be in there without having to try too much.”
womb: face book
gussie larkin: @gussielarkin
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