Roger Doyle - Passades Volume 1 [BVHaast - 2004]
Roger Doyle produced some of the most remarkable electro-acoustic music of the last twenty-five years with his Babel box set. Here after a short break he returns with a new manifesto of sound.
Passades (an equestrian term meaning to move backwards and forwards over the same space) was first conceived as a twelve minute piece for an international music festival held in Dublin in 2002. Working with software that captured sound like a freeze frame allowing it to move backwards or forwards slowly at his control he experimented with inputs of acoustic instruments and voice. Doyle continued to work using the same technique of freeze frame capture of sounds and manipulation to form a 49 minute collection of Passades. Here they are presented in eight pieces, a short opening and closing piece bracketing four longer pieces.
The first thing you notice about the Passades is how rich and full the sound is. The production creates a wash of textures and pitches that seem to hang and drift in the air. Disembodied voices and indistinguishable instrumentation meld into a thick soup of sonics. Doyle’s subtle touches and orchestration draw out the individual qualities of all the sound sources he uses. Huge swathes of drawn out strings mix with shrill female calls and droning brass. The effect is more than slightly intoxicating, as if you can feel time slowing down. The overall feel does seem like a progression from Babel but using many of the techniques and atmospheres that made that release so rewarding. Each Passade has a few sections, some abrasive and some wonderfully smooth, almost melancholic. Comparisons may be drawn with some of Harold Budds escapist ambient music in the way the textures well up and sweep you to far away lands and distorted planes of existence, but this work retains a uniqueness that puts Doyle firmly in a musical sphere of his own making.
The two other works on this CD are two pieces commissioned to celebrate the bi-centenary of the French Revolution. These two pieces are very different from the Passades pieces. Titled Charlotte Corday and the Lament of Louis the XVI these pieces are more in the vein of the Babel work than the slow motion grandeur of Passades. Complex arrangements of electronic and electro-acoustic noise build up the first three minutes of the track before a male voice appears singing a French song while more dense disorientating electronics swirl around. The central part of the track is comprised of the actress Olwen Fouere reading parts of the story of Charlotte Corday. The part of the track called The Lament of Louis the XVI begins with fierce drum rolls that are triggered by a sampling keyboard into an almost machine gun rhythm before they settle down to a sedate marching beat which brings to mind a military precession through Paris. The marching begins to be meshed with electronics and drones and the scene becomes more and more convoluted. The drums become submerged by the electronics only to reappear distorted and angrier. At about seven minutes this all drops away and is replaced by a soothing sound of the traditional Lament of Louis the XVI sung by Doyle’s son Paavo. The parade theme is revisited again before the electronic manipulations take over and we are left with the sound of a carriage running through the streets of Paris. This new material is a natural progression for Roger Doyle and leaves me anticipating Passades volume two due in 2005.Duncan Simpson