AMN Reviews: Michel Redolfi – Desert Tracks [Sub Rosa SR 418CD & 418LP]

sr418-siteWith Desert Tracks, Michel Redolfi (1951) set out to create an image in sound of the desert—its vast spaces, both topographical and audio—of the American Southwest.

Involved in electronic experimental music since his late teens in his native Marseilles, Redolfi went on to work with Pierre Henry, Luc Ferrari and others in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to that, in 1973-1984, he was pursuing electronic composition in California at UC San Diego and the California Institute of the Arts. In 1987, he returned to the US where he went into the Mojave Desert, Death Valley and Palm Canyon to make a series of recordings. These form the basis of the Desert Tracks, originally released in 1988. This re-release on LP and CD contains the 1988 album, as well as an additional ten minute track on the CD version.

As can be imagined, the sounds are stark and austere, creating a portrait in sound that reflects something essential about the harsh desert environment. But the portrait is an abstract one, consisting in looming, often unstable chords with a bright, bell-like sheen to them; the punctuating sounds of scrapes, rattling and crackling; and always a reversion to silence. Occasionally a recognizable sound emerges—a human voice, however modified, or what sounds like a train approaching a crossing—but for the most part the sounds are suggestive rather than depictive. Redolfi plays with foreground and background sounds, and the occasional Doppler effect, to create a sense of spatial depth analogous to the physical distances encountered in the desert.

Daniel Barbiero