Ælab: Riding
Dragon's Eye Recordings

Riding presents four electroacoustic sound art portraits by Ælab duo Stéphane Claude and Gisèle Trudel in a limited-edition CD-R release of 200 copies. Ælab was born in 1996 as an art research unit involving Claude and Trudel, with room allowed for the participation of other collaborators and the group's focus on the complicated relations between technology and ecology. This particular recording came into being as a result of a 2011 two-week research-and-creation residency in New Zealand that found the pair interacting with artists and scientists and pondering humanity's relationships with nature. The residency not only culminated in the performance Ælab gave at the Pukekura Park botanical gardens but also allowed for the creation of an oft trance-inducing, thirty-nine-minute recording assembled from field recordings, synthesizer, and oscillating sine waves.

Characteristic of Riding, the title track is a seamless interweave that merges multiple strands into a soothing whole. Threaded together, the setting sees the balance shift between three primary elements: gentle streams of natural outdoor sounds (flowing water, faint bird chirps), the industrial thrum of human-created phenomena, and the melodic presence of a synthesizer motif. Unspooling at a low-level pitch suggestive of a sleep state, “Force Tranquille” exhales softly, its field recording elements almost buried under an industrial drone and the whole resembling the amplified sound of a breathing apparatus connected to an unconscious patient in a hospital bed. In keeping with the “Whale Tail” title, loud water splashes appear during the seventeen-minute piece, with the abrupt punctuations generated by the creatures' aggressive movements augmented by another simple synthesizer pattern and a reverberant backdrop of seaside field elements (water, wind, bird calls), the material rather like something Scanner might produce. “Steel Spaces” inhabits a more internal meditative space in its echo-drenched bell strikes and tinklings. Time seems to stand still when its time-stretched sounds bleed into nothingness, leaving behind nothing more than the quiet ebb and flow of a single droning tone that ever-so-slowly dies out. Clearly, close listening is necessary if one wishes to reap the maximum benefit from Ælab's fine-detailed settings. Ideally, Riding would be played at a loud volume in a surround-sound presentation in order for it to be experienced in its most fully immersive form.

February 2012