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Jennifer Veillerobe - Luftlöcher

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Artist: Jennifer Veillerobe

Album: Luftlöcher

Label: Senufo Editions

Review date: May. 7, 2013

What happens in music when you remove all sense of expectation and tension? In other words, what do you get when you jettison any pre-set ideas of form? I don’t know if Jennifer Veillerobe explicitly asks herself this question, but her two albums certainly make us ask it. Zweifarbige gesten, her debut record (also on Senufo), juxtaposed fragments of audio with no connective tissue other than a few moments of silence. But it held together as a whole entity because the CD was a single 30-minute track, so you listened to it from start to finish or not at all.

On Luftlöcher, her newest record, Veillerobe fleshes out the fragments a bit more and parses them into separate, unnamed tracks, but she still stops short of developing them. She lets her processes run a bit longer, but the pieces still begin and end with no warning. They still give us no narrative or any sense of conclusion.

She has also focused her sound palette. For Zweifarbige gesten, she oscillated between hand-held recordings of simple acoustic events and modular synth sequences. For this new LP, she used, in the words of the label, “sparkling liquids recorded through miniature holes on plastic bottles.” There were no overdubs, processing or any kind of postproduction. The album title reveals no deeper agenda: Luftlöcher is German for “air holes.”

So what do we hear? Some of the tracks on the A-side sound like experiments with the inner workings of a tape machine or cassette recorder. Micro-clicks coalesce into aperiodic rhythmic cells while high, whining frequencies flutter between them. The third B-side piece has an eerie vocal quality, like the chatter of beings who move much faster than the human mental faculty. The closing track on the B-side is like a rush of white noise forced through a pinhole, emerging a few particles at a time. Instead of density, there’s porosity.

So yes, there’s a lack of development here. There’s also a lack of any sound or contrast that is going to scream for your attention. But because of this lack, your attention is heightened. You focus like Veillerobe does, blocking out external concerns, including overt formal ones. And when your attention sharpens in this way, you realize Veillerobe’s accomplishment. She didn’t create this music, she observed it. She pursued it and, for a brief moment, captured it. She got rid of her own expectations, a process that her expanded her own perception and allowed her to tap into this rich, miniaturized world of sonic activity. The result reminds of the thrush in the poet Mary Ruefle’s comment on how to describe poetry:

It [poetry] is a wandering little drift of unidentified sound, and trying to say more reminds me of following the sound of a thrush into the woods on a summer’s eve — if you persist in following the thrush it will only recede deeper and deeper into the woods; you will never actually see the thrush … but I suppose listening is a kind of knowledge, or as close as one can come. “Fret not after knowledge, I have none,” is what the thrush says.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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