Music Reviews

Artist: Michel Redolfi
Title: Desert Tracks
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sub Rosa
Imagine a desert where the sand is metal dust, the wind is gentle and feels digital, but dangerous monsters sometimes roam, sometimes issuing threats. “Desert Tracks” is the soundtrack to that environment, realised at length. Epitomised by central track “Death Valley”, this is experimental ambience that’s deeply disquieting, but without using all the usual distortion and white noise tricks. Whole seconds go by silently as you wait, almost nervously, to hear what sound approaches next.

It’s not quite all barren empty space. “Mojave Desert” concludes as an inebriated collection of train rolling stock noises, with the metallic scrapes continuing to pitch up and down on top. “Palm Canyon” briefly features a busy mechanical chaos akin to listening to the thought processes of a thousand metal ants, before it disappears abruptly and we return to the desert wash. The same track ends almost ironically with birdsong and a brief cameo of warmer chords. “Too Much Sky” is somehow warmer and more playful, but only relatively so, and ends with two minutes of actual silence (don’t tell John Cage’s lawyers…)

Michel Redolfi is a veteran of French electronic music, having worked with Luc Ferrari, Pierre Henry and more. This is a reissue of a 1988 album based on the sounds of a 1987 California Desert road trip, created with a room full of electrics and electronics, creating something that could now be generated on a laptop. Released as part of Sub Rosa’s “early electronic”, it now sits somewhere between the truly cutting-edge experimental electronics of the 60’s and the bedroom PC experimental boom of the 90’s and beyond. It’s an interesting timepiece but not perhaps a spectacular listening experience in its own right.

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