Brames (et autres mouvements d’automne)

(Ouïe / Dire 2012)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

I don’t usually begin my reviews by talking about the presentation of a publication. Mostly because I’m more focused on the actual audio content but also because I’m not normally that impressed. This is not a criticism and it’s not to say that publishers aren’t making an effort; on the contrary, many phonographic works are accompanied by highly attractive artwork and nice little touches that all add to the overall appeal. It’s just rare to come across a publication which really stands out. ‘Brames (et autres mouvements d’automne)’, a recent release by French field recordists Marc and Olivier Namblard, is an exception. For this publication is nothing short of beautiful. As soon as I opened the package I wanted a copy for myself, even before listening to the recordings.

Encased in the A5 plastic envelope is a CD accompanied by a series of high quality postcards, including the front cover. The primary subject of the publication is deer, Red Deer to be precise, and the imagery presents us with misty, ethereal vistas occasionally enhanced by a stag’s statuesque outline. Descriptions of the tracks are included and create vivid mental pictures of what is to come.

Now to the recordings themselves. It’s incredibly difficult to describe just how impressive these field recordings are because the quality is truly top class. Red Deer have a fairly limited vocabulary and the most common vocalisation used here is the typical bellowing of a male stag during the autumn rutting season. The rut is a period of acoustic duelling, where males try to intimidate each other with the power of their voice, the prize being a harem of females who are ready to breed. One might assume that five tracks dedicated to the guttural calls of Red Deer stags could become repetitive but this is definitely not the case. For each track is a perfectly rounded soundscape that encompasses both the deer and other surrounding elements. A passing thunderstorm, the gentle patter of rain, a calling Tawny Owl and wandering Wild Boar are just a few of the sounds that help give the recordings structure and depth.

I admire publications such as this, which choose to feature subjects that may not have mass appeal (birds always win here). Many would shy away from something that, on paper at least, has little sonic potential. Marc and Olivier Namblard have met this common assumption head on and produced a publication that makes you think anything is possible given the right attitude, ability and patience. An absolute must for any collector of field recordings.


[Olivier and Marc Namblard]

Olivier Namblard discography
Marc Namblard website
Ouïe / Dire website

Cheryl Tipp

Wildlife sounds curator at British Library.