Gizeh Records – 17th February 2017
FOUDRE! describe themselves as ‘a telluric drone quartet’. Composed of Frédéric D. Oberland (Oiseaux-Tempête, The Rustle Of The Stars, FareWell Poetry), Romain Barbot (Saåad, I Pilot Dæmon), Grégory Buffier (Saåad, Autrenoir), Paul Régimbeau (Mondkopf, Extreme Precautions, Autrenoir), and featuring ‘electric chimeras’ by Christine Ott on ondes martenot, they’re effectively an avant-garde drone supergroup. And EARTH is their third album.
Said album is in fact a soundtrack, scored as a live audio accompaniment to the motion picture of the same title, an experimental film directed by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen. Of the film, Ho Tzu Nyen explains, “We see the site of an unknown disaster, the debris of history that constitutes the story of Earth. Upon the site, lay fifty humans oscillating between consciousness and unconsciousness, life and death. Sometimes, one of them emerges into the foreground – clutching a fist, batting an eyelid, or weeping for his neighbor. At other times, these figures recede from the light, losing their individual shapes to form a gigantic organism, breathing in unison, pulsating like a jellyfish, though their journey across Earth.”
The concept is strange, alien, and the soundscapes forged by FOUDRE! are very much within the realms of the eerie: dark, ominous, tense, essentially preoccupied with conveying a sense of the unknown, the unknowable; the unseen and the unseeable. As Mark Fisher discusses in The Weird and the Eerie, what renders a work ‘eerie’ is the tension, the fear of the unknown. The revelation or the breaking of the tension is the moment at which eeriness ends. There is no end on EARTH beyond the end of the sound. There is no resolution, and the creeping strangeness simply hangs in the air as the silence encroaches.
The creeping fog of the ten-minute ‘Still Life’ opens the album by opening a portal to a strange, dark landscape. Precisely how strange and alien is indeterminable by sound alone, but the mind’s eye conjures shadows, half-light, a dense, sulphuric atmosphere. Willingly or otherwise, you are transported, and are now in the moment, and elsewhere. Geography is, after all, a state of mind. On ‘Goliath’ shrieking, ghoulish notes, disembodied and strange howl and hum as rapidly oscillating synths simmer to a jittery edginess beneath.
An ambient soundtrack, detached from its visuals, becomes a vessel into which the listener, by a certain sense of necessity, pours in their own meaning. Abstractions take on meaning simply by virtue of the way certain sounds and frequencies resonate in the lister’s mind, stirring subconscious recollections and sensations which lack clear definition. The elongated drones gradually turn, vaporous and ethereal, twisted and thick inspire reflection and projection: you empty yourself, casting your uncertainties into the sonic vortex, to find your emotional fragilities offered back in return. This is a film soundrack – and one performed and recorded live, as the rapturous applause at the end reminds us – but in the space between, this becomes your soundtrack. Immerse yourself. And see the film if you can.