Morne Diablotins RODOLPHE ALEXIS
(Gruenrekorder 2013)

 Review by Cheryl Tipp

‘Morne Diablotins’ begins with a question: What did the Caribbean islands look like – acoustically- before the arrival of Colombus? Following in the footsteps of the famed Italian explorer, field recordist Rodolphe Alexis journeyed to the Lesser Antilles in search of answers.

The islands of Dominica and Guadaloupe, both encountered and described during the second voyage of Chrisopher Colombus, provided Alexis with ample inspiration. Eight recordings from the expedition made the final cut, each one a perfect sonic postcard of exoticism for our western ears. A variety of birds, amphibians and insects lend themselves to the soundscapes, some of which bring with them more than just a pleasant listening experience. Track 8 includes the calls of the endangered Imperial Parrot, while track 2 focuses on the vulnerable Jaco Parrot. Both are endemic to Dominica and can be found nowhere else in the world; as recordings of these species are rarely found in archives, the publication has scientific value as well as the obvious aesthetic appeal.

As one would expect from Alexis, and indeed Gruenrekorder, all eight recordings are of exceptional quality. A personal favourite is ‘A Night in Grand Bay’, a 28 minute snapshot of Dominica’s Morne Diablotins National Park. It is exquisite; a delicate blend of insect and amphibian voices, complimented by rainfall that gradually diminishes as the close of the recording approaches. Perfectly balanced, perfectly judged and something that I could happily listen to again and again.

Another recording that I think deserves special attention is ‘Grand Etang at Dusk’. Coming in at just over 18 minutes, we are treated once again to a long, uninterrupted soundscape, this time recorded on Guadeloupe rather than Dominica. I find myself leaning more and more towards these longer field recordings which, when well done, give the listener plenty of time to ease themselves into the sound and all the nuances that come with recordings of this nature.

‘Morne Diablotins’ is a worthy addition to Rodolphe Alexis’ growing discography.  The recordings have an eternal quality that, though contemporary creations, speak of a time before colonisation. Together they offer a window into the past and an opportunity to appreciate the natural wonders of these island nations.

[Rodolphe Alexis, photo from Meanwhile, in Fukushima]

Rodolphe Alexis website
Gruenrekorder website

Cheryl Tipp

Wildlife sounds curator at British Library.