Christopher Nosnibor, Aural Aggravation, January 4, 2017

The background

The exhibition Broken Ground looks at seven cities over ten years, and how redevelopment infrastructure changes our perception of cityscapes. These cities could be anywhere (everywhere). Reconstructed from the opportunities of street level construction, I treat the sites more like stage sets, where there are props, actors, entries and exits, and evidence through the debris, disarray, shadows of figures and randomness throughout.

In our contemporary world the works have taken on hybrid references of displaced people from war zones, or natural disasters that fill nightly newscasts in the media.

The review

It’s an unsettling work. An apocalyptic, post-nuclear work. An album that lurks under the shadow of the bomb. It’s an album for unsettled times, a soundtrack to a return to the distrust of cold war politics and a global culture defined by social and political division, fear, uncertainty and mass murder. Broken Ground is a dark album for dark times.

From the very outset, Bouchard manipulates dark, throbbing layers of undulating, yawning drones and grating tidal waves of noise, dragging them across birdsong-like tweets of analogue twitters, sounding like a corpse in a tarpaulin being hauled down gravel drive at sunset. Yawning, drawling harmonica-like notes drift lazily, and somehow awkwardly, stretched and distended, over groaning low to mid-range backdrops: almost-familiar sounds are bent out of shape and rendered unfriendly. Intergranular Attack goes in low, snake-like whispers and bleak monotone narrative samples deliver reports of atomic science with a detached clinicality, and the theme is revisited in the fragmented, fractured post-apocalyptic time capsule that is Resistant Materials.

Dark tones creep and hover, while washes of snarling noise and contrails of feedback linger amidst screeds of sharp-edged sheets of sound and washes of nebulous noise. Glitchy, crackling beats thud disconcertingly through a stammering hum on Hysteries, and the scratchy oscillations of Voids Patterns offers a fresh take on spacey / spaced out reverby darkness.

Broken Ground finds Bouchard exploring well-trodden experimental fields and offering something new. Charming chimes assume an ominous demeanour; voices drift, detached in empty space. There is no comfort or solace to be taken from their presence: they’re distant, disconnected, out of reach, perhaps by light years. You may be receiving, but there’s no way to make two-way contact: you’re lost in a wave of pink noise and a fizz of rolling static.

As in space, so on earth: each person sitting, alone, boxed in: connected in the virtual world but never more alone and isolated now. Tapping out comments and messages, condolences and sympathy for the displaced and the damaged reported by the media: it’s merely mechanical. You feel nothing for them, you feel nothing for yourself: you’re numb, a drone. You don’t really connect. You’re floating in virtual space.

The voices, stammering, echoing in fractured snippets of different languages from the speakers are no more familiar than the voices from around the world, beamed to your computer and smart phone. This is the world of dislocation and dis-ease Bouchard depicts with such precision on Broken Ground. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but looking in the mirror always is.

Broken Ground finds Bouchard exploring well-trodden experimental fields and offering something new.