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Carnets Africains
ERIC BROITMANN
(Obs 2014)

Review by Chris Whitehead

Although the sounds are from Africa, the place Eric Broitmann explores in his triptych Carnets Africains is the continent of memory. One capacity of the human brain is to gather impressions and images and infuse them into a shifting cloud that is not a facsimile of the original, but rather a woven fabric of events and movements. This fabric can be torn, folded, unpicked and rewoven again to form a totally different object, and within the scope of this project, Broitmann continually reinvents his substrata.

Themes appear and twine around others before fraying and snapping or disappearing back into the pattern. The surface is wrinkled and in places breached. It ruffles in the wind and the edges barely contain the whole, but like memory, to pin it down would be to take away its character: A brass band, a transition into electronic flux, a motorcycle starts up, snatches of voices from cheap transistor radios…

Cheap transistor radios.

Let’s use the final track entitled Incantations as a case in point: It struggles to start, flickering and stuttering and spangling like sunlight glinting off polished aluminium until finally it is born. A voice repeats something over and over. Indeed an incantation of sorts. In the background people stomp and clatter around and an electronic echo strafes across the mind.

The surface is wrinkled.

A second section of processed bass pulsing and ringing frequencies, something is coming and unidentified manual work is being carried out. Building. Building. The incantation again, and water being poured on the ground. Now nothing but the intonation of a quiet voice.

Spangling like sunlight.

Eight minutes and fifty seconds have passed and over the quiet voice a gleaming drone is appearing. Startlingly a clatter of objects, bang, a whimpering character is close to the ear and worryingly emotional. Slowed and sped up goblin, spirit, impish demons enter. A clicking of pool balls, a string pluck, a choir, an echo chamber and ghostly disruptions of the reality curtain.

Goblin, spirit, impish demons

A beautifully indistinct section of blur exists for a while, behind which people talk as if going about their daily business. A kind of heat hazed view of a market or town square. Singing and heavily electronic clouds erupt occasionally. The sounds with which this track started appear again. Sunlight glinting off polished aluminium. The incantation. The summoning. A voice repeats something over and over.

The surface is wrinkled.

Emerging from a journey without knowing which road you took, what you saw or in which order things occurred is a little disorientating. Many objects and pseudo-objects fill the landscape and not all have paths around them. Some you need to pass through. Others you skirt around and some vanish just as you get purchase on them, they fall from beneath you and leave you stranded.

The continent of memory.

Travelling through air, across water and earth, yet with the linearity of time rippling like the Niger river, swirling and carrying the truth of cause and effect away in the eddies and waves as they strive for the solidity of the far shore, Carnets Africains is complex but not impenetrable, because it continues to surprise and contains clear light. Of course there is no map because memory cannot be navigated using maps. It requires intuition and vision.

Cheap transistor radios.

So on these three tracks modern Africa brushes up against the remains of ancestral systems and nature. As a kind of psychogeographical journey through townships, deserts, on rivers, through streets, into people’s houses and rituals, Carnets Africains bristles with life and draws the listener deep into the concrete reality of a fevered dream.

A continent of memory.

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[Eric Broitmann]

Obs website
Eric Broitmann website