Courtesy of the artist.

RAMZi on the Spirits, Cartoon SFX, and Healing Bird Noises Behind Her Alien Jungle Music

Phoebé Guillemot’s unclassifiable sonic universe is like a safari through a mutant forest.

Yelm, Wash., is home to the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, a cult formed by a woman who claims to be channeling the spirit of a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior god and conqueror of Atlantis. While Ramtha’s spirit roams wild in the suburbs south of Seattle, north of the border in Vancouver, B.C., lives another woman, musician Phoebé Guillemot, who says she is channeling a separate but similarly named spirit: RAMZi.

“RAMZi chose to talk through me. I’m serving this entity,” Guillemot types via Skype. “It’s for sure a relationship between us, it’s not just RAMZi controlling me. RAMZi is like the li’l child inside me.”

Originally from Montreal, Guillemot, who records and performs under the name RAMZi, is producing some of the most beguilingly unclassifiable music in the Northwest right now. Her polyrhythmic, sample-based tunes squirm like bioluminescent alien millipedes through loamy soil. Imagine the soundtrack to a Planet Earth-style documentary series about an ancient mossy exoplanet full of three-eyed marmosets and furry fruit-bearing trees. They’re more sonic environments than songs—rubbery rhythms waft in and out of ambient arboreal textures full of echoing squawks and chirrups. Guillemot’s pitch-shifted voice occasionally bellows indecipherable words like some chopped and screwed trail guide.

“I spend a lot of time searching for sounds that I like, whatever heals my ears,” Guillemot says of the songwriting process that naturally led her to the formation of this unique RAMZi world. Beyond the carefully curated and dubbed-out Caribbean, kizomba, and Somalian music snippets that form the rhythmic basis of her squiggly songs, she also finds that “birds and cute cartoon sounds have this personality that appeals to me—sound banks of BBC nature recordings and stuff. At some point writing my songs, I get hooked and fall into a trance, even on a computer.”

Although her bizarre tunes are peerless in structure or tone, her music’s trance-like quality found like-minded fans in Vancouver’s booming ambient/lo-fi house scene before listeners in her native Montreal caught on, leading her to relocate. Houti Kush, her acclaimed 2015 LP, found a home on the city’s most celebrated label, the cassette-centric 1080p. Her upcoming Phobiza Vol. 2: Noite, the second in a day/night-themed series of albums, will be released by the mysterious, internationally celebrated Mood Hut collective, credited with kickstarting Vancouver’s distinctive new scene. Her upcoming European tourmate Hashman Deejay, a principal member of Mood Hut, features on her brand-new RVNG Intl. album For Haku, named after the boy/dragon from Hiyao Miyazaki’s classic animated film Spirited Away. Guillemot’s Seattle show this weekend will be her last West Coast date before her month-long journey through Europe.

“Haku is like the dream boi of Houti,” Guillemot writes. “Houti is another entity in RAMZi world, they should appear more and have their own album soon. In For Haku there’s actually a third voice, Tweeti. You will see!” So many spirits, so little time. RAMZi. With Simic, Pleather, Lilac. Cairo, 507 E. Mercer St. $10. All ages, 8 p.m. Fri., May 20.

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