Steinbrüchel: Basis

Sebastien Roux: Revers Ouest*

Though Basis literally draws upon previously-issued guitar and piano recordings by Lawrence English (Happiness Will Befall), Ben Frost (Theory of Machines), and Bernd Schurer (piano recordings originally presented as a 5.1 surround installation at Leerraum in Berne , Switzerland), Ralph Steinbrüchel has given the material new life by dramatically processing and layering it. His re-inventions aren't severe and abrasive but instead generally placid, lulling, and warm in character (that the Zurich-based musician and graphic designer has issued music previously on 12k, raster-noton, and LINE provides a clear indication of his stylistic inclinations), making for an inviting hour-long listening experience. Four English-derived interludes (totaling twenty minutes) alternate with three glacial settings ranging in duration from eight to twenty minutes long. Consistent and controlled in execution and realization, the material might generally be characterized as slowly shifting fields of rippling textures and droning tones, with “Falter,” the Schurer-based setting, verging on stillness incarnate. Basis approximates the experience of lying in the grass by a remote country pond on a hot summer day with the soft interminglings of insect noises and the droning hum of electrical wires the reverie-inducing soundtrack.

Sebastien Roux's accompanying citation of the opening line from Chris Marker's haunting La Jettée (“This is the story of a man marked by an image of his childhood …”) helps the listener orient him/herself to Roux's own radiophonic piece Revers Ouest *. Of course, the two works are formally different—Marker's famously combines photo stills, aural treatments, music passages, and voiceover while Roux's is a radio art-oriented collage of heavily-processed electroacoustic and contemporary classical music sounds, fragmented voices, and field elements—but they do share certain thematic qualities: both stories are situated in France (Paris in Marker's, Nantes in Roux's) and work futuristic visions into their narratives. Roux, a Paris-based sound artist who recently collaborated with Greg Davis on Paquet Surprise and currently works at Ircam as a musical assistant, presents an uncompromising and immersive listening experience that is best broached as a constantly mutating sound collage (in contrast to La Jettée, Revers Ouest * doesn't present a linear narrative). Anything but tranquil and retiring, Roux's hyperactive work is dream-like, even nightmarish, and hyperactively teems with extreme ruptures, squeaking noises, ripples, amplified traffic sounds, and voice effects.

January 2008