Jean-Luc Guionnet/Éric La Casa — Home: Handover (4 stars)

Ambitious, four-disc, multi-stage collaborative project interweaving spoken word, field recordings, structured minimalist improvisation and sound art

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Jean-Luc Guionnet/Éric La Casa — Home: Handover

(Potlatch)

To describe this ambitious, four-disc, multi-stage collaborative project in any detail would require a far larger space than the one this review inhabits. In brief, Home: Handover is an exploration of sanctuaries and private lives and acoustics, with each disc divided into four distinct phases.

In Phase I, a Glasgow resident describes their home, captures its sounds, listens to their favourite music, and talks about the experience of being recorded. Phase II, recorded live in Tramway in 2010, consists of an improvising ensemble (Aileen Campbell, Neil Davidson, Gael Leveugle, Lucio Capece and Seijiro Murayama) interpreting and abstracting the content of the original recording through strictly specified roles: vocal and instrumental mimesis, narrative description, sustained sound. In Phase III, musician Keith Beattie (of The Red Ensemble) improvises in response to elements of Phase I, in the process describing his participation and recording a sonic map of his own home and the surrounding environment. Finally, in Phase IV, the first three Phases are taken into a studio and combined into a real-time collage.

Comprising more than four hours of interwoven spoken word, field recordings, structured minimalist improvisation and sound art, this project demands a lot of the listener. But there’s something curiously compelling about it. Perhaps it’s the sense of trust and intimacy it entails — its post-John Cage acceptance of all sounds as equally valid demands intimate attention to what would normally be unnoticed background noise. The listener becomes hyper-aware of the home of a perfect stranger, far more so than if they dropped in for a cup of tea and a Jaffa Cake. And with each subsequent interpretation, response and processing, the encounter becomes abstracted or subsumed into someone else’s perspective, which raises some intriguing, even uncomfortable questions about the extent to which we prioritise the vividness of our own experience and how we relate to one another. It’s big and clever and thought-provoking, but probably not one to play at the office Christmas bash.

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