Time and distance collapse in the music of Catalan folk duo Tarta Relena. With little more than their voices and a decidedly contemporary take on oral repertoires dating back hundreds of years, Marta Torrella and Helena Ros revisit and interpret the far corners of Mediterranean musical tradition. The two singers embrace the perspective that folklore is living and ever-changing—therefore mouldable with modern instruments now within reach to provide new meaning, but without leaving aside the innate origins. Indeed, Tarta Relena re-sing songs from ancient Crete, Corsica, Mallorca, Menorca, and retell the stories of powerful characters such as Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin Mary, and the Paixu tribe of women in Afghanistan, while subtle electronic pulses and rippling effects run through the background. Perhaps the strong point of the project is the complexity in its simplicity; the maximum expression with minimum elements. The two singers have so far released three highly-prized albums, Ora Pro Nobis, Intercede Pro Nobis, and Fiat Lux, respectively, in which they go on to sing in Spanish, Catalan, Greek, Latin, English, and even the Judeo-Spanish language of Ladino, also known as Sefardí.
Onstage, Tarta Relena perform with a neat blend of technologies both modern and ancient. The two musicians flesh out different vocal techniques (flamenco, lyrical, traditional, jazz) with percussive patterns on a ceramic amphora outfitted with a contact mic. Every breath counts and every note is precisely deployed; the duo’s vast exploration of the possibilities of the voice supported by a fine-spun mesh of electronic touches.
Presented as part of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Treaty of Cooperation between Catalonia and Québec with support from Institut Ramon Llull
The Indian Runners
Torrella and Ros have made a feature out of their breathing, converting what most singers regard as a musical by-product into a captivating highlight of their music.