Review: Manuella Blackburn – Petites Étincelles

These collages are like the obsessions that infiltrate dreams. Imagine, for example, that you have an epiphany about the beauty of photography. You spend the daytime taking photos or diving deep into the literature on lenses, shutter speeds, photographic film and aperture. And so sleep becomes an overspill for these incessant, excitable thoughts, twisted by the liberal logic of dreams. Shutters flutter outward like a startled bird flock, mechanisms whirr on either side…these sounds slosh from left to right, mimicking the movements of animals or draw bridges or hurricanes, conjuring an imaginary universe in which they exist as the only available building block. On “Snap Happy”, the third track on Petites Étincelles, cameras are everywhere. The compositions of Manuella Blackburn feel vital and thoroughly alive, imbued with her fascination for these noises and their charming twitches and intricacies, frenetic with the desire to drench the senses in more than can realistically be absorbed simultaneously.

Yet this is not chaos. I may be overwhelmed at points, yet even the most spectacular of eruptions feels adherent to a common direction. The pieces inflate to fill the entire stereo space with acoustic resonances, then fade into a light rain of ticking minute hands, then reduce to vertical spindles of plucked string, then stretch into tufts of ambient mist. At any given moment, the kinetic energy feels extreme. Spilling, tumbling, exploding. “Time Will Tell” often sounds like a cluster of grandfather clocks spontaneously combusting, with springs hurled through space; “Ice Breaker” drowns me in tides of carbonated liquid, blinded by bubbles and the splashes of a thousand ice cubes. Yet to view these pieces from an aerial perspective would be to witness the narrative that assuredly tugs the bedlam forward, left, right, up, down. Even amidst the rapture of sonic obsession, Blackburn never loses sight of the overall shape, and just how the whirl of life can be perceived as grander arcs of age and steady change, so these collages allude to the prescient, symbiotic understanding that exists between the sounds that hurtle past eachother.