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Michael Gendreau - Voûtes
Monday, June 01 2009 @ 03:00 AM PDT
Contributed by: Henry Lauer


Artist: Michael Gendreau United States

Title: Voûtes

Label: Cohort Records United States

Genre: Field Recordings/ Ambient/ Experimental

Track Listing:

01 Voûtes
02 Voûtes (Live)

The concept behind this recording is pretty cool. Les Voûtes is a building in Paris, or more specifically, a set of vaults located underground. Sound artist Michael Gendreau recorded the vibrations that rumble through the stones of the structure, and this comprises the first half of this release.

The sounds of these vibrations, recorded straight from the stone itself, are quite magical. Deep, rumbling, and almost conversational. At times you can imagine the passing traffic and the like above, sending these seismic waves down through the rock below. If mountains could speak and sing – I imagine these sounds approximate what they would sound like.

The second track is basically the first track but reworked live as a performance in the space itself. If anything it is sparser and less engaging than the first half; I think personally I would have enjoyed just hearing the original recording without modification had I been there – and this in spite of the fact that Gendreau utilised the acoustics of the space itself to transmogrify the vibrational recordings in a feat of self-reflective subtlety.

Here lies the root of my criticism of this recording: somehow, despite the truly awesome concept behind the recording, it seems bloodless, empty. There are long stretches of silence and the CD (even the re-worked second half) that seem quite random in its trajectory. Indeed, the entire recording seems quite random.

Gendreau has presented his sonic outing essentially without varnish or much in the way of shaping. Really, for me, this isn’t enough. If I were to release a CD with nothing but me playing through various chords, scales and notes on my bass – well that would have the same effect I suspect: boredom.

I want to hear more than just raw musical material – I want to hear a composition that can carry me off into some other place. The timbres and tones Gendreau has captured are beautiful and intriguing but they have not been set to any kind of purpose. They don’t create an atmosphere or a narrative (at least to my ears).

Consequently whenever I listen to this release I find myself thinking “hmm, I should put some music on” – only to remember that I already am listening to something! It just doesn’t engage, and this is particularly disappointing given the exotic beauty of the vibrational sounds that are presented.

Perhaps if this release were treated as raw material and extensively remixed into something composed, considered and enveloping then we’d be onto something. But as it is there just isn’t enough here for my ears. To be fair, its a brave experiment: but I rather wish Gendreau had taken a few more risks or otherwise been more aggressive in developing his material.


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