Sound artist Emmanuelle Gibello certainly catches the listener's attention in opening her first official release with “Bamboo Cry,” an uncompromisingly disorienting overture recorded in 2010 whose violent creaks and scrapes reduce its accompanying field sounds to mere footnotes. Then again, what else should one expect from a recording whose press release includes the note: “File under: ambient, noise” and that's issued on Bruit Clair, the Nantes-based label Mathias Delplanque founded in 2009 to release electronic and electroacoustic works?
In the years since receiving her Master's in Visual Arts in 1999, Gibello, a Paris-born graduate of the Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University, has proceeded to expand her practice into electronic music, resulting in the four electro-acoustic works—two short and two long—collected on Labyrinthe. Less prickly than “Bamboo Cry” is the album's first long piece, “Crashtest #10,” which documents the tenth live performance Gibello presented for the “Placard Festival” (headphones sessions) in 2002 in Paris. It's a fascinating sound portrait where mutating voices, textural noises, natural and urban field recordings, and electronic manipulations interact for twenty-six immersive minutes. Swirling winds, chanting voices, public speaker announcements, and industrial noises drift within the multi-layered mix, with Gibello constantly adjusting where the emphasis falls. Be aware that though things remain at an even keel for most of it, turbulence does set in during the closing minutes, after which “Pour faire peur aux enfants dans le noir,” initially broadcast in May 2009 for the Journée de la Création Radiophonique, re-introduces the violent tone of the opening with a series of blasts. Recorded live at Paris's Le Chat Noir in 2009 and intended as an homage to Marcel Duchamps' “Erratum Musical,” “Random erratum,” which incorporates sounds used in the CD's three opening pieces, at times sounds like a blistering storm artificially generated within an amplified wind tunnel. It's also the most aggressive of the four settings, something that's made especially clear when the noise builds to a brutal pitch halfway through before abruptly cutting out, so be forewarned. Yes, Labyrinthe is a challenging ride, but, to her credit, no one'll accuse Gibello of pandering to the masses.