REVIEWS / Lumières, ombres, voix et visages

The biography provided by multi-media artist Thomas Bel on his website is a pair of black and white photographs. One is a portrait of (presumably) the artist, eyes down, possibly in the midst of live performance. The other shows two birds on a branch in negative. While offering little on Bel’s background they’re a suitably mysterious and alluring entry point to his music.

Lumières, ombres, voix et visages offers three sonic responses to the 1932 film Vampyr by visionary Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. Without having seen the film I can’t vouch for any connection between sound and image, but as ‘responses’ this is beyond Bel’s scope. What they do reflect is Bel’s enthusiasm for Dreyer’s work, the enigmatic power Dreyer injects into his images, present even in stills from any of his films (just check the famous image of Renée Jeanne Falconetti in Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc).

All three pieces proceed slowly and centre around warm electronic oscillations, angular guitar activity and abstract field recording. In ‘Isolé Le Long Du Fleuve’ waves of organ tone undulate like the deep ocean, distant reverberant rustling occurs in the background, interrupted midway by a loud guitar chord. ‘Eine Innere Stimme’ features a vaguely choral synth drone, distant metallic strings and the hum of socket noise. The final ‘Seulement Sinistre Renversé’ is the most immediate piece here, warm ripples of sound gradually slipping apart, crackling with dissonance and distortion as notes bend and decay like Akira Rabelais. These are fine, rich and enveloping nocturnal collages, reminiscent of work by Kyle Bobby Dunn, Francisco Lopez and Rafael Anton Irisarri.

(Joshua Meggitt / Cyclic defrost. February 2011. AUS.)

This three song EP a tribute to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 film Vampyr, which I must admit I haven’t seen. Like the Ala Muerte disc, it seems to be over too quickly, which of course just means that I wish it was longer. The three pieces here exude a now familiar sense of isolation, foreboding, and melancholy, which is a combination that draws me in every time. Slowly shifting electronics are layered upon and interspersed with what sounds like iron knocking against the floor of an empty room. Sometimes I think I can hear the background sounds of a moribund city at night. Great music for listening to alone at home on a stormy day.
(John Scharpen / Know deposit, know return. January 2011. USA.)