The Montreal-based sound sculptor showcases his unique automaton orchestra of everyday objects that includes springs, cans, boxes, lamps and bottles. This review originally appeared in The Wire 219 (May 2002).
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Montreal based Maxime De La Rochefoucauld is a sound sculptor who creates small automata from bottles, boxes, lamps and all kinds of everyday objects combined with springs and sticks, cymbals, bells, cans, drums and other pieces of percussion (see The Wire 213). Assembling them into an automaton orchestra, he assumes the role of conductor by controlling the frequency output which activates the sculptures.
However, the nine improvisations of Collection Somnambule (music for sleepwalkers) prove his automata also go the distance, musically speaking. Lasting between five and eight minutes, each improvisation contains challenging musical structures subjected to high levels of contingency. Not only do they look like Surrealist objects, the unpredictability of the electrical impulses that make them twitch also bears out the analogies the Surrealists used to make between automata, trance-like rituals and the workings of the unconscious. De La Rochefoucauld augments his largely percussive automata with a violin sculpture and Œreal¹ instruments such as clavier, trumpet and accordion. Each track sounds like a different kind of world music with unfixed map references. Though they're naggingly familiar you just can¹t place their source. The dissonance of "La Boite Somnambule" suggests a gamelan warming up in a Chinese court, while the loose knit drums and screeching horn of "La Chaleur Somnambule" recall Joujoukan drumming. But instead of suddenly launching into a frenzied rhythm, the latter holds to the downtempo of a 70s West Coast jazz combo. On the most mechanical piece, "La Vache Somnambule", the beat speeds up and slows down in time with a robotic grunt, while a mouth harp sounds like an automaton straining for language.