Review: Christian Bouchard – Automacité

The opening section of Automacité is “Impasto” which, according to Bouchard himself, is an exploration of “the spontaneity of composition, information density, intentional awkwardness…” And while this description may conjure mental images as to the nature and dynamic of the piece – sudden implosions, zig-zags between volume extremes, sheer inundations of audio – the actual content that populates these descriptors is an unfathomable wealth of sound: snatches of conversation, warbling electronic drones, tiny skitters of synth pulse, Hollywood movie explosion, loose circuit electricity, snatches of orchestral music, screams of terrified children, scrapes of white noise, jet engine accelerations…it’s like a horrific near-death flashback that encompasses a lifetime of hearing into one, exhilarating pinball game.

Of course, I have merely speculated many of these sound sources – most appear in split-second flashes, long enough to register as sensory material but too fleeting to allow for firm conclusions to be drawn as to their contextual origins – but it’s impossible to fail to notice the impeccable fidelity of Bouchard’s patchworks. What truly gifts Automacité its aural overload is the surreal level of detail within each sonic particle, meaning that even the rattle of a box of paperclips explodes to gargantuan proportions, as if thrust under a sonic microscope. Personally I felt somewhat disorientated (an effect only amplified by the surround sound) as my brain leapt between each fragment and became momentarily immersed in the rich level of detail within each, only to be hauled out again and redirected to the next clatter, hum, buzz, beep, fizz or boom. To emerge back into reality after listening to Automacité leaves even the sound of a bustling construction site sounding unhurried and meditative when contrasted with the heaving panorama of Bouchard’s work; needless to say, this is exhausting and often terrifying stuff, particularly at the high volume it so crucially requires.