We don’t throw the word ‘masterpiece’ around lightly, but Lingua Ignota’s 2019 album Caligula, is worthy of that accolade – a bewilderingly inventive work of stately beauty and jarring noise that triumphantly turned her personal trauma into glorious art.
Now Lingua Ignota – aka classically-trained singer and multi-instrumentalist Kristin Hayter - has returned with a brand new single, the stark and stunning Pennsylvania Furnace, which dials back the noise for dramatic, piano-led atmospherics.
The song apparently “reflects on the inevitability of God’s judgment, evoking the legend of an 18th-century ironmaster whose dogs return to drag him down to hell after he throws them all into his furnace in a rage”, while the video, filmed in rural Pennsylvania, was directed, shot and edited by Hayter alone.
We caught up with her to find out what we can expect from the new album…
When did you first go into the studio, and how has it been?
“Around February of last year. We had no idea of the severity of what was going on. Seth [Manchester, producer] is a valuable part of my project and the studio is like this little enclave outside Providence, it’s kinda like the only thing there! I’m not very good at knocking things out in short periods of time. Typically I go back and forth a few times to work on things with Seth, take it home, listen for a few months and go back. It’s about a nine-hour drive from where I live in Pennsylvania. There were a few times where we had to cancel, or it wasn’t safe to travel, and once we had to quarantine in the studio for three weeks. So it’s been about a year in the making! Thankfully, there weren’t really any time constraints.”
Did you feel pressure to follow up Caligula?
“Oh yeah! Ha ha! Very much so! And I felt pressure making Caligula as well, like I had a lot to prove. For this new one, I had to do something completely different. So I’m kind of rebelling against the model I created with Caligula.”
How is it different?
“I do reference a lot of things I’ve already done, trying to build on that world. Caligula is so multi-genre: an all-genre, no-genre kind of mess! I wanted to take some directions that I’d been pursuing in parts of Caligula. There is almost nothing electronic happening on this record. We have some synth aspects, but they’re just creating a bit of harmonics. It’s more traditional instrumentation. Trying to inhabit the instruments as they are, and to push them to their limits without digital or electronic manipulation. It could be seen as quieter, but it’s really not – it’s just as intense as previous work, but it has a traditional feeling, like American traditional folk.”
We spotted a banjo on your Instagram.
“Yes! Ha ha! I bought a banjo! There are a lot of instruments that we utilised on this record that I had no idea how to play, and I played them anyway! I made my banjo debut, and my cello debut. I was interested in the tonality and timbre of the banjo, what it implies about American music, but creating a different context for it. We worked with this incredible arranger and composer, Ryan Seaton, who did incredible horn and woodwind arrangements. We also have mountain dulcimer, bowed psaltery, and we have bells all over the place – I collected a bunch of bells, scouring antique shops looking for brass bells of different shapes and sizes that would make interesting layers with each other. That was fun! So it’s a really different palette for me, but it was exciting to explore.”
Are there still classical elements?
“There are because that’s the way my brain works, but I think they are more covert. There was a focus on producing a particular kind of song structure that fits with the themes, so big baroque flourishes are gone for the most part.”
Can you tell us anything about the album’s concepts?
“The record ended up being very much about my experience of the year. It was a dark year for everyone. I had some interpersonal things going on, I had surgery on my back and spine, so I had a bunch of months where I was in excruciating pain, trying to get surgery during COVID. Also I was in a totally different place where I’ve never lived before, in Pennsylvania. A lot of the palette of what I understand as Pennsylvanian has seeped into this record; it’s a very interesting, remote, isolated and kind of dark place, and I think it has become a big part of how the record sounds.”
Sinner Get Ready will be released on August 6
Lingua Ignota: Sinner Get Ready tracklisting
1. The Order Of Spiritual Virgins
2. I Who Bend The Tall Grass
3. Many Hand
4. Pennsylvania Furnace
5. Repent Now Confess Now
6. The Sacred Linament Of Judgment
7. Perpetual Flame Of Centralia
8. Man Is Like A Spring Flower
THE ORDER OF SPIRITUAL VIRGINS
I WHO BEND THE TALL GRASSES
REPENT NOW CONFESS NOW
THE SACRED LINAMENT OF JUDGMENT
PERPETUAL FLAME OF CENTRALIA
MAN IS LIKE A SPRING FLOWER
THE SOLITARY BRETHREN OF EPHRATA