RAMZi // hyphea
(Music From Memory)
On hyphea, RAMZi’s latest album for Dutch imprint Music from Memory, the Canadian artist displays her propensity for blurring the lines between electronic and organic, this time diving deep into the world of mycelium networks. Caroline Whiteley steps in as our guide to navigate the shroomscape.
The mycelium is a network of fungal threads which runs through the top few inches of virtually all landmasses on earth. Spread out in all directions like a web, it shares the soil with legions of other organisms.
Mycologist Paul Stamets once explained how, “if you were a tiny organism in a forest’s soil, you would be enmeshed in a carnival of activity, with mycelium constantly moving through subterranean landscapes like cellular waves, through dancing bacteria [in a] microcosmic sea of life.”
hyphea, the latest album of Montreal-based Canadian producer Phoebé Guillemot AKA RAMZi, feels like hearing the scene Stamets is describing. Based on sketches made to soundtrack Fun Fungi, a documentary directed by Frederic Lavoie, RAMZi’s ten mind-bending tracks oscillate between ambient, electronica and modern interpretations of tropicalia.
Take ‘mille et une nuits’, a lush tapestry of güiro, sitar strokes, and synths distorted into a synthetic bird song. ‘megafauna’ takes these sounds into deeper territories, with a jungle rhythm that calls for a dance between the mycelium spurs. Strange sonic creatures also appear on ‘foggi’, a deep reggaeton stepper featuring collaborator Priori (Francis Latreille).
The album’s dance floor-oriented tracks ‘smooshi’ and ‘afloat’ — a collaboration with NAP (Daniel Rincon) — feel rooted in the warm house of Vancouver labels 1080p and Mood Hut, which have released previous records of Guillemot’s.
Growing up in Québec, Guillemot cites free jazz greats like Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane, and Jon Hassell as early inspirations. The late American experimental trumpeter pioneered fourth world music, which drew on his ethnomusicological studies of traditional music from different parts of the globe. Hassell’s influence is most striking in the opener ‘awakin’, where Guillemot layers a ghostly trumpet atop gentle, ligneous drums.
These rhythms provide a thread of consistency to Guillemot’s music, ranging from her world music listening roots to her time spent as a DJ in the underground clubs of Canada and abroad.
With its blend of diverse styles, hyphea defies genre or location. But an urge to cross-pollinate cultures can sometimes lead to questionable choices. In 2019, Guillemot cancelled a joint album with Priori, Jumanjí, after being accused of cultural appropriation; it contained a sample of ‘Vande Mataram’, the Indian national song, an anthem of the Indian independence movement.
At the time, Guillemot apologised swiftly, and it appears Guillemot has taken this lesson to heart in the years since the incident. Now, she approaches her style of fusion with a deeper understanding of a world that – much like mycorrhizal network fungus – is more interconnected than previously imagined.