If there was one album that I wish I had covered in 2017, it would be Jasmine Guffond’s Traced. I first heard the album about five months late, at the end of last year. I hadn’t noticed Guffond’s name or music orbiting around the blogosphere anywhere. This surprised me not just because it is a brilliant record, but because I had been avidly anticipating the follow up to her 2015 debut, Yellow Bell. I realise now that this was down to my cultural lag, since there were indeed reviews on Boomkat and the Guardian at the time. So… sorry about that.
Guffond’s music has an interesting lineage in that much of it comes out of research, both in the arts and in science. Much of her work focuses on the process of ‘sonification’, making sound out of that which is not. She developed apps that sonify GPS networks and invented the ‘sound selfie’: generating an audio signature from facial recognition software. Much of Guffond’s interest also lies in the darker applications of digital technology. State surveillance, Internet privacy and the loss of identity in the digital age are central themes.
On Yellow Bell, Guffond presented these concepts in a way that was close in resemblance to an art exhibition or the research findings of an experiment. Somewhere between ‘soundscapes’ and musique concrete. Waves of soft static ebb and flow, punctuated by odd samples, the sources of which remain unknown. There are very few moments of conventional ‘musicality’ to speak of, with the notable exception of Guffond’s solitary singing on tracks like ‘Elephant’. It shouldn’t work as an approach but it really does.
If ‘Yellow Bell’ was an opening statement, then Traced is its conclusion. The voices on this album sound more like secret recordings, made unbeknownst to Guffond and sent back to her in pieces by an ominous other. On ‘Post-Human’, her voice splinters across the stereo-field. On ‘GPS Dreaming’ it is stretched out of shape like pizza dough. Traced is also markedly more paranoid in mood. You can almost feel the icy net of surveillance drawing tighter. Anyone living in London, CCTV capital of the world, will know the feeling. But there is also surge of confidence on this sophomore. Guffond has honed her craft into an artform and the album flows with definitive purpose towards its conclusion.
In the latest addition to our mix series, Guffond weaves together some of the influences on her new record, from Ligeti to Gabor Lazar. Listen below. You can also read more about her work in our full-length interview with Guffond from 2015 here.
ES - Ennen Oli Huonominn
Meredith Monk - Panda Chant II
Evol - Untitled 03 (Melting Pinkness)
Rashad Becker - Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. 1 (Themes 1)
Catarina Barbieri - Scratches on the Readable Surface
Demdike Stare - Caged in Stammheim
György Ligeti - Glissandi
Giacinto Scelsi - Trio á Cordes - 3éme mouvement
Ron Morelli - Shredder
Mark Fell & Gábor Lázár - Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making (Tk 1)
Tony Conrad - Four Violins (1964) [Edit #1]
Biblo - Oh God (forthcoming on C Sides)
Jasmine Guffond - Boundless Informant