If you’re a voyeur, you’ll probably like claire rousay’s recordings; and if you like claire rousay’s recordings, you’re probably a voyeur (seriously, get that checked – could be a whole new world of experience waiting for you). The tiny sounds and motions of a daily life. The warped confessional voice recordings. The music is a glass-walled house, containing all, hiding nothing. But moving on from potentially uncomfortable intimacy for a moment…

I like claire rousay’s stuff, though I don’t find it particularly easy or accessible when it comes to saying why I like it. File under ‘uneasy listening’. Also, frequently ‘utterly compelling listening’. It definitely speaks to me, but what it’s saying precisely is often unclear, subliminal, symbolic, occluded, or just weird. I’m never sure what to say about it and, having nothing to say, tend to say nothing…

“a softer focus” is maybe a good entry point through which to grasp at understanding, a half-open window allowing me (you?) to peer and eavesdrop, gather enough of an impression to attempt a description… Not because this album speaks more clearly necessarily but maybe the images and thoughts that bubble up in response are a tad more transparent (though not necessarily apposite).

preston ave lays out a key ingredient, up close field recordings; the tiny passings and chores of everyday life blown up or otherwise exposed as strange and delicate structures comprising an array of miniature sounds. From these tiny voicings emerge discrete (the market), a soundtrack of long electronic tones and piano (samples?) that complement, frame and ultimately point up the chewy mundanity of existence – not to denigrate but to celebrate; briefly elevating the humblest household action above the threshold of notice.

And so it goes. In peak chroma’s drone-world, we encounter supermarket checkout machines, distant voices call across oceans, a train carries part of your past away, raindrops are applause… sounds transcend their sources, becoming children’s toys or industrial machinery or the sound of filing clerks in motion… until enters the voice, a blurred autotuned hazily whispering entity, the decomprehended monologue flirting with Lia Kohl’s cello underlinings and a moderately busy kitchen before the whole thing slowly melts into overlapping snippets of conversation.

In our diluted dreams, children play, gently drowned out by an easy swell of sound pushing through overheard radio and TV waves. Something twists and writhes. The noise bath of the outside world beckons: dense, claustrophobic, oceanic and (potentially) profound: [INSERT YOUR DREAM HERE].

In the grand and moving stoned gesture, nothing about the world is natural. The recorded sounds are artificial – i.e. artificed – and the voice is treated to be unknowable, lacquered, in-between our restful familiarities. Vocals and violin strings hint at alien pop, words transmogrified from meaning into significance (in the moment, at least) before the coda of a kind of promise. The sound of traffic, an opening piano chord, this must be the Tom Waits cover. Nope. Instead, piano, cello and increasingly squelchy sonic minutiae takes us on a ride to precisely nowhere. Because there is nowhere but here and here is always where it’s at. Inhale.

“a softer focus” is voyeuristic, intimate, bare naked (though not so much erotic posturing, more exposed honesty). Reading back, though I now have many words describing claire rousay’s “a softer focus” and even feel I’m nibbling at the toes of understanding, it remains wildly open to interpretation, an endless procession of unique subjective listenings. I’m left with the sense that this is some sort of ad hoc personal code, built from non-verbal sounds (sonic symbols), of fluid meaning, and whose interpretation depends as much on your own subjective input as any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ impression of the performer/artist… A framework for the imagination. A gift.

Think I’ll stream it again, while I’m waiting for the orange vinyl to arrive…

preston ave
discrete (the market)
peak chroma
diluted dreams
stoned gesture
a kind of promise

American Dreams

All music by claire rousay
All design and artwork by Dani Toral
Lia Kohl – cello on #2, 3, & 6
Ben Baker Billington – voice on #4
Macie Stewart – violin on #4
Alex Cunningham – violin on #5

“a softer focus” is available via claire rousay’s Bandcamp page, in a rapidly dwindling range of formats and colour options.

Tell us what you think...