MARANASATI 19111: Nina Keith’s Debut Album on Grind Select

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Nina Keith presents MARANASATI 19111, a debut full-length album on the Grind Select label. Hailing from Philadelphia, Keith grapples with the memory networks of childhood, her personal history with community tragedy and the paranormal, and her experiences in EMDR therapy to craft webs of memories, both known and uncertain. 

Maranasati: a Buddhist mindfulness of death. 19111: a Philadelphia postal code, a system to facilitate the transport of messages. Keith’s MARANASATI 19111 reckons with the universal inevitability of mortality in relation to her own lived experiences, and through doing so, reveals that there remains both death and rebirth in memory.

Tracks like “The Woods Of America’s Unknown Child,” named for the four- to five-year-old boy who was found dead in a bassinet box in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia in 1957, serve as a sonic memento mori (remember: you will die). In this track, the left and right hand of the piano gently walk along. A voice enters and sings, peppering in soft da’s and doh’s. Unintelligible found sound emerges. The elements intertwine, and the result is altogether solemn, dark, and beautiful. Keith expertly crafts a haunting vignette of a lasting stain on Philadelphia, and the nation’s, memory. 

Nina Keith--Photo by Madeleine Bishop

Nina Keith–Photo by Madeleine Bishop

Other tracks are less on-the-nose, but capture an incredible, dream-like quality. In “New Skin 16 Mirror Dream,” a waltz-like piano melody meets an array of soft percussive vocal fragments. Flutes join the mix, and the layers hold together like mosaic tiles. The complexity of it all secures itself like a liquid bandage–a profound, new skin to inhabit. 

The piano sounds in block chords, like a powerful, watchful eye in “Official 19111 Town Watch Home Page.” A slow, cold piano line snakes through “Nazareth ICU.” MARANASATI 19111 radiates an inherent human quality. The sound and emotion Keith evokes is tender and honest. She crafts these dreamy recollections with the kind of intensive care our physical bodies so often desperately need.

Tracks like “I’m In The Water” feel literally submerged in the subconscious. The synthesized melodic sound starts and stops. It rewinds and begins again, processing and reprocessing before it slowly fades away. Another track, “Ash Wednesday,” utilizes found sound hidden by layers of white noise static, as if buried in the recesses of one’s mind. Here, Keith is turning the television dial. Like fragile memories, the source of these sonic materials is not always apparent. “In The Woods We Both Saw It, Weren’t Dreaming” brings the ear back to the woods of Philadelphia–both peaceful and mysterious. The twirling piano melody is soothing, but then it’s suddenly interrupted by a myoclonic jerk–the jolt experienced when one just begins to fall asleep. Dream realm and reality touch in this space. 

Nina Keith--Photo by Madeleine Bishop

Nina Keith–Photo by Madeleine Bishop

Tweeting, chirping birds and whirring electronics introduce “Hereditary Trauma Dream Sprinting (Oxford Circle),” a beacon toward the end of the album. A piano melody paces along in a dream sprint, the kind where legs are heavy, filled with sand, pumping and pumping, but gaining no ground. Soon a herd of vocal harmonies break free as the melodic underbelly gains speed. The harmonies are punctuated by freckles of notes in the higher octave of the piano. Flutes flourish throughout like glimmers of light. Within these many sonic layers, clarity is found.

Through MARANASATI 19111, Keith reminds listeners that not everything is given. Most unknowns must be picked apart, unfurled, and wrestled, coaxed out from the faded edges of what one can neither fully recall nor wholly forget.