Review: Léa Boudreau – Chaos contrôlé

MIKROCLIMAT.

All of the sounds on Chaos contrôlé come from circuit-bent toys, which is fabulous for numerous reasons. For one, it provides a renewed purpose to these bundles of wiring and colourful plastic, rebelling against the consumerist cycle of cheap manufacture, short product lifespan and regular replacement. It also means that the album is teeming with whacky samples forced through lo-fidelity sound processors, which will be familiar to any parent whose house is strewn with singing light-up elephants and wheeled walkers: yelps of “it’s learning time!” lisping through bad bitrate, eerie imitations of child laughter, gleeful ear-worm themes played on MIDI instruments. Not only does Boudreau retain the fuzz of those cheap speakers, but she also captures the creep volatility of those sing-a-long toys, which have a knack of falling inexplicably silent and then bursting back into life without any buttons being pressed in the interim.

Most crucially, it obliterates the synonymity between exquisite sound design and clinical abstraction. Boudreau’s precise handling of frequency occurs within the unlikely domain of child’s play and parenting, where the priority is more often to simply get from A to B – by whatever means and however haphazardly – rather than to execute each task perfectly. The record often moves in jerks and stumbles, with drones sent somersaulting by bass plosives and half-bars of “itsy bitsy spider” slurped through pitch bends. Yet just how the best slapstick comedy is a combination of spontaneity and choreography, Boudreau’s work falls ambiguously between painstaking acousmatic sculpture and improvised noise. The boundary between the two is always blurred. In fact, the more chaotic passages – such as the quickfire flicker of noisy transitions “How to navigate through social anxiety in 3 easy steps” – seem likely to be the most carefully arranged. Even at its most exact, Chaos contrôlé retains the silliness and jubilance of its source context.