Dark electronic duo uncertain can still see the light
Florian-Ayala Fauna was born in Norfolk, Virgina, but spent her formative years in Bombay Beach, California, a setting the musician described in apocalyptic terms.
“It’s on the Salton Sea, so there’s a lot of pollution and dead animals, so it looks like a wasteland, really,” said Fauna, who records alongside bandmate Felix Keigh in uncertain but will appear solo at the Fuse Factory on Saturday, Dec. 28. “It was a very depressing environment, but it also influenced me a lot growing up. … Looking back, I can really see how that decay and isolation was formative to how I do my art and music, so this was kind of inevitable in a way.”
Fauna's decaying childhood world exhibits itself on albums like God Is a Man Eater, from 2019, a dense, buzzing, six-track song cycle that opens with sparse chimes and gradually build to an anxiety-inducing wall of sound laced with screeching synthesizer, swirling electronic barbs and ominous percussion. As the album progresses, though, more air is introduced into the music, which begins to takes on a somber, almost stately quality, while simultaneously giving the listener a chance to breathe.
“It’s not all harsh darkness or I would get bored quite quickly,” said Fauna, who is largely responsible for crafting the music (uncertain began as a solo project around 2007) and then shares writing and vocal duties with Keigh. “I like to have a duality and large dynamic in the work. … I like the idea of dark and light, and how these dichotomies flow together at once. I’ve never been one or the other. I like to keep my options open as far as mood and sound, and even genre.”
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In concert, though, these sonic excursions naturally take on a more confrontational tone, since Fauna enjoys the idea of provoking a captive audience, ramping up the music’s extremes to elicit a response. “It’s a way to channel my feelings about what’s going on in the world today, and to be able to do that in a live context is different from being in the studio,” said Fauna, who filters everything from transgender issues to social and political ills into her often-spontaneous, cathartic wails. “In the studio, it can be more passive, or receptive, but the live stuff is more active and confrontational and in your face.”
At times, these vocals can be difficult to discern, often serving as another nightmarish musical texture. But even the snippets that do rise above the sonic boil can remain cryptic, shaped by sacred texts predicting end times, archaic religious writings and occult literature. “There are [lines] about different governments … that are terrorizing different parts of the world, so it can be topical, but in a way that’s more discreet, because it’s not literalist,” Fauna said. “It’s not me referencing Trump, or this particular government. It’s more about creating an overall cryptic feeling.”
Growing up Christian, Fauna was always drawn toward the darkest aspects of the religion: depictions of the crucifixion, bloody tales of martyrs, visions of the apocalypse. Beginning at age 11, inspired by modern surrealist art movements, Fauna would channel these biblical elements into her visual art, and even now there remains a sculptural element to uncertain’s music.
“I’m very concerned with texture … and how the different ranges of sounds and tones play out,” Fauna said. “There are a lot of ways you can approach sound, so I keep that in mind when I’m working and try to maintain those high tones and mid tones and really low bass tones.”
A similar range is reflected in the musical themes, which, while often inspired by more violent, desperate imagery, still elicit a sense that the all of this pain, bloodshed, persecution and hatred playing out in modern news cycles can be followed by salvation.
“There can be darker elements to [the music], but it’s often a means to access the so-called light,” Fauna said. “In order to overcome suffering, you really must understand it first, and then go on from there. … Misanthropy, these days, is very much overrated, because it’s inherently defeatist. The hope that I see in people tends to be driven by the marginalized and those people that I see suffering at the hands of the elite. I still feel like the human collective has a lot of potential.”
The Fuse Factory
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28
13 E. Tulane Rd., Clintonville