Review: Ryoko Akama – Grey (Gray)

INSUB.

In an interview about Grey (Gray), Bonnie Jones refers to her remote collaboration with Rodolphe Loubatière as building “this new kind of surreal space. It’s not the room, it’s not our bodies…it’s actually a kind of hyperspace that is more or less based on a certain kind of intention”. Capturing their contributions within their respective homes, Jones and Loubatière project their performances into a zone of non-specificity. The piece resides neither in one space nor the other, instead forming somewhere within that margin of geographic distance and internet-aided time lag. It’s the perfect circumstance in which to enact Ryoko Akama’s 23-minute piece for electronics (Jones) and snare drum (Loubatière), whose title is a contemplation on “a colour without colour” – not found in black nor white, but uniquely manifest in their combination.

Everything about this piece, from the spacious stereo mix to the delicate, circumferential nature of the two performances, folds back into this notion of arising through approximation and not-quite. Jones’ electronics – a slender spill of pulsing interferences and shortwave radio – seems to be consciously maintaining ambiguity, teetering between different strands of feedback, always tilting away from the poles of loud/quiet and signal/noise to linger in between. Similarly, Loubatière jostles seeds and bells upon the surface of the snare drum to generate a sort of frictional whisper, hushed as though reluctant to disturb a sleeper in the next room, yet unwilling to fall silent altogether. Aptly, the mix doesn’t place these two performances on top of one another, yet neither does it cram them into opposite corners. Jones and Loubatière are both separate and connected. This is not the sound of a communal occupation of physical space, but it’s not the sound of two performers in isolation either. The truth lies in between.