Posts Tagged ‘FOUDRE!’

Gizeh Records – 15th March 2019

Christine Ott has graced the virtual pages of Aural Aggravation on a number of occasions, and has been on my radar for a while. Here, she comprises one half of newly-founded Snowdrops, a France-based keyboard duo formed with Mathieu Gabry.

With Yann Tiersen, Tindersticks, Foudre!… as resumé namedrops, the pair have pedigree. Snowdrops is a soundtrack work, composed for Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s film of the same name, which has won several awards including Best Film in the Orizzonti section at the Venice Film Festival.

The press release explains that ‘the Thai film trains a poetic look at the void of humanity through the story of two men, a Thai fisherman with peroxide blonde hair and a nameless stranger stuck in a foreign land and supposed to be a Rohingya of Myanmar, whose continuing persecution is constituting one of the biggest human rights scandals of our time’. And so Snowdrops is a film of extreme importance right now. The world is in turmoil, and while culture is supposedly the most evolved it’s ever been, humans right are being eroded, disregarded. Corporations and governments act s if they’re exempt, and yet they all talk of ‘the will of the people’.

According to the press release, ‘Snowdrops’ soundtrack brings another dimension to Aroonpheng’s movie. The duo was especially focused to build their sound here on a frame of keyboards of different generations (Ondes Martenot, Mellotron, MS2000 or Altered keyboards). The color is sometimes dark (‘The Mangrove’, ‘Losing a Friend to Death’), sometimes surrealistic (‘Lights in the Deep), and in the case of ‘Weird Dance’, a suggestion of romance between the two main characters on the rhythm of a dreamy electronic tune.’

A soundtrack’s function must always be to enhance the movie it accompanies, and to add depth and dimension. But my initial response to any soundtrack release is ‘does it work without the visuals?’ And while immersing myself in the work, I ask ‘what visuals, what images does this conjure? What mood does it convey?’ Soundtracks which are reliant on the film they accompany are fine, but are better not release independently. And I’m doubly not a fan of those ‘OST’ works which feature snippets of dialogue or scenes intersected with songs. 20 years ago, it was maybe cool. In fact, it was. It was the way soundtracks were, and showcased classic dialogue that would pass into postmodern parlance. But listening back now to the CD of Pulp Fiction, it sounds somehow naff. And the Trainspotting soundtrack albums aren’t soundtrack albums, but compilations. Has the world changed or have I changed? Perhaps both: there’s an entire generation coming through who haven’t even heard of Trainspotting, let alone its vast cultural impact. Culture has a short memory, and it’s depressing.

Snowdrops’ soundtrack to Manta Ray is very much a musical work in its own right, designed to compliment the film. It isn’t glitzy, it isn’t mainstream.

Sonorous, rumbling pulsations sound out into the depths on the first piece, ‘Introduction / Gemstones in the Forest,’ before soft, delicate sonic lacework begins to drape its semi-abstract from over the fluid framework of the composition as it drifts in a loose, languid form.

‘The Monologue’ may have more solidity for French-speakers, but the mumbled utterances, delivered against a backdrop of distant piano, played as a dolorous, single chord motif, whispering contrails and melancholic atmosphere speaks beyond language. And indeed, language and its abstraction shapes a large part of this album’s organic feel. It bubbles, mellifluous, and isn’t an easy work to grasp any sense of tangibility from.

Much of the album consists of muffled dissonance and unintelligible murmurings, and these work well in the way they conjure deep, dark atmospherics. They do little to convey any sense of filmic narrative, but in context it’s hardly a problem. Manta Ray is abrim with subaquatic abstraction, subterranean, swampy sounds, and exists within a sense of itself. 

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Snowdrops

Gizeh Records – 23rd November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

In their biography, FOUDRE! are described as ‘a telluric drone quartet composed of Frédéric D. Oberland (Oiseaux-Tempête, Le Réveil des Tropiques, The Rustle Of The Stars, FareWell Poetry), Romain Barbot (Saåad), Grégory Buffier (Saåad, Autrenoir) and Paul Régimbeau (Mondkopf, Autrenoir, Extreme Precautions) who meet punctually for sessions of ritual improvisation where they invoke noise and drone and the deities of chaos.’

I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced by the punctual meetings given my years of experience dealing with musicians, but no matter: KAMI , the collective’s fourth album, was improvised and recorded live at Le Rex de Toulouse while supporting French doom metal band Monarch! at their tenth anniversary show.

The five compositions which comprise the forty-five minute set are expansive, as much is sonic breadth and depth as duration, and as such, extend in all directions as the players audibly feed off one another intuitively to create immense aural vistas which are every bit as enigmatic as the titles, all of which reference Shinto gods.

Opening with a twelve-minute epic that evolves from dark, low rumblings and sparse down-tuned scraping string-like drones, tremulous, haunting, and hesitant, to a simmering ripple of waves that forge a subtle but sustained crescendo, ‘Raijin’ very much evokes images and sensations worthy of a god of lightning, thunder, and storms. ‘Raijin’ indeed.

Disembodied voices rise wordlessly, ghostly and demonic, against a heartbeat-pulsing beat. It’s all about the atmosphere, and it’s all about the slow burn. And because the shifts are so gradual, so slight, the listener’s attention becomes focused on the detail, attenuated to the tonality and texture of the individual sounds.

‘Ame-no-Uzume’ inches toward a pulsating hybrid of ambience and chillwave, with the eerie motifs of ‘Tubular Bells’ twisting into a funnel of extraneous noise against a stammering beat, and the pieces all segue seamlessly into one another, with an elongated organ drone rising up on ‘Fujin’ (the Japanese god of the wind) before the final piece, ‘Hachiman’, opens with a heavy, head-crushing crescendo of discord. All hell breaks lose amidst feedback and screeds of extraneous noise as the volume intensifies and things get ugly. Unintelligible screams and barks, distorted and inhuman, tear the air across a clattering industrial beat and blistering electronics forging a whorl of sound in a brutal blast reminiscent of Prurient.

If ever the opening and conclusion of a set emerged leagues apart, KAMI carves a most extreme trajectory, taking the full duration of the set to build from a whisper to a terrifying scream. And it’s this arc that makes KAMI so accomplished and so exciting.

More often than not, live recordings leave the impression that something is missing, and that being distant from the actual event is to subtract from the experience. KAMI is different, in that the hi-fidelity recording means it doesn’t sound like a live album, and sitting back while the sound in all its detail emanates from the speakers affords the opportunity to take in those details, the layers, the textures, and to reflect in a way that the in-the-moment experience simply cannot allow. This highlights the differences of the way we as an audience receive and experience different media and modes of delivery; the in-the-moment intensity may offer catharsis, instant gratification, and a sense of immediate impact, but when there is this much to absorb, the distance and benefit of time to reflect and repeat is invaluable. And KAMI is a work to digest at leisure.

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FOUDRE! – KAMI 神

Gizeh Records – 17th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

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.

 

Foudre - Earth