Now this is how to create an effective soundscape. Visit a different land (in this case Chile, a far cry from Monte Isola / Myriam Pruvot’s native Brussels), record the local sounds, add music of your own, and incorporate literature pertinent to the experience. To paraphrase, immerse yourself in the subject matter in such a way as to invite listeners to do the same. Niebla means “mist” or “fog”, but it is also the name of a coastal town in Valdivia, Chile, where the artist found inspiration for this multi-disciplinary work. To listen is to appreciate both the visit and the impression of the visit, which can also be gleaned from the brief teaser video below. At turns inscrutable, beguiling and beautiful, Niebla offers access at the same time as it dances out of sight like a skittish vicuña.
Take “La Noyée” (“The Drowned Woman”) for example, a peculiar work that may have been written in response to a song by Serge Gainsbourg and that incorporates creaking hull, lapping water, dogs, voice and carousel. The unusual arrangement is reminiscent of This Mortal Coil’s “I Come and Stand at Every Door”, and its enigmatic nature enhances its emotional appeal. Or “Rituel”, which features tribal drums, chanting, guitar, and a large swatch of the local avian population. One can imagine the fog, the cliffs, and a certain giant gorilla.
Even if the words of Spanish conversation are foreign to listeners, their tone is verifiably benign. Chilean workers file, scrape and saw on “Lointain”, honoring the title of the piece, which means “like a distant echo” ~ this French musical term describes music that is meant to be heard in the background, as it is here. It’s odd to hear a drone and siren call behind field recordings, instead of atop them, but this choice honors the populace by putting them first. Instead of Big Artist, Little Country, this is Big Country, Little Artist, a decision made more laudable by its voluntary quality.
The album closer makes extensive use of a spoken word narrative by Boris Lehman, who quotes (in French) the philosopher Gilles Deleuze: “To dream of islands – whether with joy or in fear – is to dream of pulling away, of being already separate, far from any continent, of being lost and alone – or to dream of starting from scratch, recreating, beginning anew.” If Niebla is the sonic version of a travel essay, this philosophical piece is its central thesis. For the artist, who has chosen “Island Mountain” as her recording moniker, the change has already begun. (Richard Allen)