Somnambule - Writing About Music


"Audiolab is made up of a series of different sound pieces, specifically produced to be diffused inside an architectural module, created by young French designers. This space or listening chamber has been made to receive the visitor and allow for the optimal and environmental diffusion of sound."

Mention sound art and the spectre of something either stringently reductive or piecemeal and unfocused threatens to haunt the potential listener. The initial impression of Audiolab’s contents is instead one of unexpected freedom and relief from the nagging insistence of rhythm. Paramount is the experience of contemplative space achieved by a Cage-like awareness of silence, concomitant to which is a sense of space which enables the listener to explore unhurriedly in their own time.

It’s impossible to describe all fifteen of the pieces on these two cds. Suffice to say that a wide number of atmospheres, moods, dramas and sonic possibilities are presented and negotiated by both visual and musical artists including pieces by Monolake, Vladislav Delay, To Rococo Rot and Doug Aitken and Steve Roden. A necessarily limited sample follows.

Alejandra and Aeron/Underwater Villages (Somewhere Between Superscription And Depopulation) begins with short bursts of Spanish language, water running, goat bells, wind impacting on a microphone, birdsong. The bells begin to loop and a ringing/grinding sound intrudes upon the rural idyll – has the action relocated to a watermill or have the human and animal protagonists been submerged? Later, a chorus of spectral voices is woven into the sonic tapestry, voices of lost possibilities perhaps.

Rebecca Bournigault/Intentions traces a narrative rendered in French laced with phonemes, plosive syllables, the hoiks and spits of speech punctuated by slowly fragmenting piano. In the pauses between speech hesitant samples stutter.

Henrik Plenge Jakobsen’s Plasmatic Prisms explores a large church organ via neither the hymnal nor the profane, but through imperious prolonged stabs, oscillating rumblings, the breathing of the organ’s pipes out of which arises a fearsome alien lifeform.

The more materialist should know that Audiolab’s two cds are enveloped in gold wrapping paper which, together with an information sheet, are encased in a rather lovely black and white card box with the lettering rendered in a Stereolab-like typeface. Unfortunately there are no pictures of the chambers for which these pieces were composed with the exception of a spindly line drawing on each of the cd labels. This is sound/art/music to contemplate at leisure. The lack of overt narrative thread allows the listener even upon a second or third listening to wander as if from room to room, unsure of what will be encountered.
Colin Buttimer
October 2003
Published by the BBC