Michel Redolfi: Sonic Waters No. 2 (Underwater Music)

Michel Redolfi

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Michel Redolfi: Sonic Waters No. 2 (Underwater Music) Review

by Thom Jurek

Michel Redolfi makes real atmospheric music, in this case, on his second volume of underwater music -- and his first on CD; this is music to be recorded, played, and listened to underwater. Yep. Redolfi hangs microphones underwater, leaving them there for years at a time, records sound, then records other sounds from near-silent or silent auditory environments above the water, processes them -- with the help of Pascal Gobin and Michel Pascal -- with synthesizers and then plays them back to an audience, who is sometimes underwater! What does it sound like? Like music made in the deep stillness of time. The keyboards add something, like a very subtle trance-inducing effect while the underwater sounds, such as on "Effractions," which was played to an audience seated outside, suggested a marriage of sea and sky, evoking the notion of a lost civilization, or the lost traces of some passage. They shimmer and sweep, irregularly wash over, and disappear just as suddenly. On "A Sunny Afternoon at Bird Rock," sounds from the air are melded and even collaged with the sonic pulses. Water and air joining together, held in mid-space by the synthesizers -- so minimal they almost aren't there -- and whistle and wave through each other as well as the listener. The effect is heightened tenfold through headphones as gulls cross from one speaker to the next, and formations of water bubble up from the depths and move in the other direction. Finally, the amazing "Full Scale Ocean," which has been performed dozens of times in tide pools, oceans, ponds, lakes, and rivers, becomes the overwhelming experience that joins technology and the natural world together as one inseparable universe. Over half-an-hour in length, this is music as atmosphere because that's what it is. The sheer technical manipulation of those natural sounds that most affect the human mind and body are edited together and mixed into a whole that echoes deep within the human psyche. This is what Brian Eno only dreamed of doing, and what those other environments records wish they could pull off. Truly amazing.

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