Reba Fay, alias Swan Meat, is a poet, audio engineer, and composer from Washington, D.C. Informed by her experience with chronic illness & body dysmorphia, her work pairs pairs "a carnivalesque assemblage of spoken word pieces" with jarring, arrhythmic industrial and ambient compositions, and is built from a library of memories teeming with sonic detritus: vestigial feeding tube, bytes of heart monitor.
Her debut EP, Bounty, released on Paris' PERMALNK imprint, explored recovery from bulimia nervosa through the lense of Samus Aran from the Metroid series. It premiered on Thump & was listed as one of Mixmag's best club/bass releases of the month.
Fey codes her own plug-ins & Max patches; Tiny Mix Tapes has called her work "a seamless crossover [...] from fine art & literature to music." Recent releases include Knife Splits Ice, a collaborative EP with the Japanese producer Yoshitaka Hikawa, described as being "[as though] spiked with acid at a swingers' party" and "Tame," a dense yet sprawling single for Bala Club, where the kettledrum bombast of such composers as Jesper Kyd meets her personal reworking of the ballet scores she flailed to t/out her teenage years.
Music & text have always been the only two things that matter. When I was 7 years old I saw Britney Spears warbling like a mirage onstage and cried for days when it was over, she was so beautiful. However, the would-be Pop Tart was wrenched from my mouth soon after as I began training in classical violin & piano, playing in what now feelings like a million different orchestras, eventually picking up the guitar, too, at which point I nudged Mozart aside and obsessed over both Fairport Convention and the E Minor pentatonic blues scale, practicing for hours in my parents' attic. The guitar opened up a world of genre – I was particularly intrigued by no-wave: Suicide, DNA, Teenage Jesus, early Sonic Youth – and compelled myself to begin experimenting with electronics, running the instrument through a graveyard of distortion pedals, picking apart my amps, et cetera. I'd record these tiny noise pieces & layer them with stories and poems I'd written: one about a babysitter who can't stop chewing gum, another about sleeping on a bed of canned peaches. I secretly called this project 'Born Again Virgin,' but shared the music with very few. I even did a small stint singing vocals in a screamo band.
All the while, I was going through a battle with illness, one that left me homeschooled for the majority of my time in high school, with all too much free time. Music was my obsession and my escape, pardon the cliché: during my check-ups I'd record weird hospital sounds on my phone and slice them up in Audacity once home - trying and failing to be Burial, perpetual surgery version; I'd scour the bowels of Last.fm for undiscovered noise gems, falling in love with Autechre, Prurient, Wolf Eyes, everything. I'd record myself humming melodies and articulating parallel rhythms into my computer, but didn't know how to make those pieces manifest, except sparsely on my cheap keyboard, out of tune baby grand, etc (i'm learning to tune pianos right now tho!) I was an avid little web developer & at the time was taking a computer science course - a field I continued to explore in college, along with the programming of VST plug-ins, though ideal student I was not - but the concept of capital-P producing still scared me: not only was I unfamiliar (at the time) with other women engaging with computer music (now I know that all the best composers out there are & were women: from Hildegard von Bingen to Alice Coltrane to Pauline Oliveros, Pamela Z, Eliane Radigue, Wendy Carlos), I was also, I guess, a "gearhead" (though I certainly couldn't afford any new gear, beyond a used Korg drum machine always on the verge of collapse) & always imagined myself the tiny conductor behind a gigantic, meters-tall modular rack.
Anyway, I did start producing - the pull of the DAW was too strong - & to this day am still searching for my own voice inside the software. One thing I always loved about Ableton was how it looks and functions like a little world, or a little body: plug-ins could be prosthetics, enhancing my imagined physical body, reverb tails shooting from my fingers. Sometimes projects I've began end in my computer totally crashing, because I've padded the thing with so many effects buses I blow my CPU. The other great thing about software is there is so much of it, opening me up to so many new ways of making. I tried my hand at Max (and still do, and still love it), SuperCollider, chucK, even visual software that could respond to my music (particularly the little-known v-Module Ableton collection; check it out). I don't really have a definitive workflow: I fuck around endlessly until I find one sound that I like, and go from there.
Territory: worldwide → email@example.com
→ 10.11.2017 Sounds of Stockholm Festival, Stockholm — SE
→ 30.11.2017 Berghain, Berlin — DE
→ 01.02.2018 CTM Festival, Berlin —DE
→ 23.02.2018 Sonic Acts Festival, Amsterdam — NL