Perhaps best known as one-half of the acclaimed JOVM mainstays Pavo Pavo, multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, producer and experimental artist Eliza Bagg has spent the last few years developing a prolific career in her own rite, collaborating with Helado Negro, Julianna Barwick, John Zorn, and Caroline Shaw and performing in avant-garde operas by Meredith Monk with the L.A. Philharmonic.
Bagg has stepped out further as a solo artist with her latest recording project Lisel, which grew from Bagg’s desire to turn inwards as a way to get in touch with her own sense of authenticity. “I had found space in the classical world that made sense for me,” says Bagg, “but I realized I needed to make something that was truly mine, that sprung from my own voice.” Naturally, that realization led to a year-long writing and recording process with Bagg waking up every morning to spend time alone with just a microphone and her computer.
“My main instrument is my voice, not a keyboard or a guitar, so I wanted it to be the genesis of every song,” Bagg explains. “I was trying to use the resources I had within me, within my body, to make something that feels true about the way we live our lives now, in 2019. That’s why I wanted to focus on my voice-I wanted each song to be literally made out of me.”
Bagg’s debut Lisel single “Ciphers” is an ethereal song built around a spectral arrangement of shimmering synths, flute, glitchy beats and Bagg’s vocals, which manage to be intimate, crystalline and achingly tender — with a plaintive yearning. Directed by Jing Niu, the accompanying video is a hazy and feverish dream that emphasizes the song’s plaintive and yearning quality.
“The word cipher has two meanings — it can be a coded message, but it can also be an empty hole, a zero,” Bagg says of her latest single. “The song is about the haunting uncertainty in the pathways that have been set out before you, and realizing these courses have become more ambiguous and disorienting than you thought – at best entangled, at worst empty. There’s also, however, the glimmer of trying to find authenticity within that reality – the background choir serving as the basis for the song is simultaneously pure and glitchy, faulty but still true.” Adds Bagg, “The video is set in three surreal, manufactured landscapes: a celestial beach next to a reflection pool, a dark space where a shadow figure mimics and supports my movement, and a river of red silk. My identity is echoed in the pool and splintered in the shadow figure.”