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Roger Doyle - Passades Volume 2

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Artist: Roger Doyle

Album: Passades Volume 2

Label: Bvhaast

Review date: Dec. 18, 2005

Dubliner Roger Doyle began his musical explorations as a fusion drummer, which is almost impossible to believe when listening to his entrancing electro-acoustic music. There’s not a moment of busy-ness or showiness here, but instead a sensibility that is difficult to pigeonhole. Shying away from the noise extremes of figures such as Merzbow, but equally concerned to avoid the sparser climes of post-AMM improvisation, Doyle seems to work at the intersection of musique concrete and Lucier-like drone explorations.

His so-called “passades” – an ongoing preoccupation and ultimately a large-scale work, of which this is the second installation – represent Doyle’s attempts to think and composes in the interstices between both genre and media. He uses a wide array of electronics and software in an attempt to capture sound “like a freeze-frame in video,” to use his oft-cited characterization. What this means is that Doyle captures specific sounds – from external, “non-musical” sources (hence the link to musique concrete) or from his own previously recorded pieces – but rather than simply replaying them and merging them within a larger tone field, Doyle toys with the structure, the duration and the context of the recorded bits (which vary in length from minute bursts of pure noise to long spectral passages).

So yes, there is a very strong and detectable methodology at work here, one that reveals itself more clearly upon subsequent listens: you can hear loops or brutally clipped segments; expansive, almost psychedelic manipulations or radical condensation of sound. But you also don’t need to pay attention to any of this simply to enjoy Doyle’s music. Aesthetically, the first thing you notice about these pieces is their density: thick, almost palpable drones establish themselves quickly. But what makes them interesting is the degree to which details are interwoven – moaning, spectral choruses in the distance; sharp, rustling sounds in the foreground; spine-rattling metal.

Pieces like the ominous, ethereal “Frozen in Stereoscope” are positively cinematic, conjuring up vast train stations, girls choirs, string quartets played backwards, and rubbed Tibetan prayer bowls. “The Sixth Set” and “The Seventh Set” are similarly rich, and for me they actually recall Sonic Youth’s “Providence” in some places – voice mails and gull cries and so forth, although their closing minutes recall refracted Fennesz. But elsewhere, Doyle’s pieces are more stripped down, almost sounding like a steam radiator, entrancing in both constancy and variation. Some pieces, like “Link/Separator 1,” are at times confrontational – with placid surfaces rudely interrupted (one finds the most Pierre Henry-like stuff here). But for the most part Doyle’s work is cryptic, retreating (for the most part) from obvious reference or jarring gesture. Indeed, the title of his cryptic spoken-word piece “The Idea and Its Shadow” might be a good metonym for Doyle’s work as a whole. Gorgeous and provocative at once, Doyle’s music seems unjustly unknown. Anybody interested in electronic music should give him a listen.

By Jason Bivins

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