Maria Fusco’s ECZEMA! is confrontational and forthright. The first thing we hear is a man's voice, bathed in lush reverb. It sounds like the inter-hymn mumblings of an episode of Songs of Praise. We're transported into a cavernous cathedral; nudged into an involuntary live experience.
Fusco's decision to hand her words over to a male performer is mysterious — but her words are anything but. Over a half hour of captivating music she bares herself completely. It may seem a flippant subject, but Fusco ensures a comprehensive and deadly serious exploration of eczema here.
Music is so often permitted to explore the travails of mental health but, short of outliers like Ian Dury and the Blockheads, not its physical side. Here Fusco blends the two areas with skill. Itching is framed as a compulsive, even erotic act. Our performer describes the urge to 'rasp the tender places'. It's transgressive, private, and 'ravishing'.
But the physical cost is made clear too - Fusco paints herself as a grotesque Frankenstein's monster. Hard, drifting platelets that adhere to bedsheets. She refers to herself as having 'elephant, donkey' skin and emphasises the thoughtless perfection of others'.
She also grants her body a hieroglyphic power. The psychogeography of scar tissue. Fusco says of her scars they 'remember what I cannot'. We become aware of her burden. With eczema you carry the marks of your compulsion around. You wear your shame on your skin. And it literally keeps you up at night. A powerful, physical release.
Those drawn to extended spoken word explorations situated in avant-garde instrumentation will enjoy Cosey Fanni Tutti’s Time to Tell. ECZEMA! is available to stream and purchase here.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe