I’ve never written an album review before and start questioning volunteering to given this is a serious piece of work being released and I don’t know a single name given as inspiration in the accompanying review package notes:
“Five years, twelve towns and cities, and three countries: Radio Songs is the debut solo album from Toronto’s Brigitte Bardon’t. Here, Bardon’t’s haunting vocals are absent — these twelve tracks feature only radio and field recordings, layered, collaged, sampled back, slowed, or recorded straight in one shot. Inspired by DJ Screw, Maria Chavez, Christian Marclay, and Nike7up, these noise and pop compositions dial into the radio as an emotional barometer of place and time.”
I listen to the album:
As track one ‘Is That All There Is?’ eerily opens, I’m mentally transported to a David Lynch-esque scenario; a vibrantly coloured, plushly furnished hotel corridor, deserted but for the potential of something slightly askew waiting around the corner.
The track progresses, metaphorically more corridors are walked and corners turned – but only pieces of the jigsaw are revealed.
I anticipate finding a mistreated lover somehow having managed to tie their oppressor to a chair.
There’s something sinister in the air
And indecision too: floating in the echoes, an inability to follow through; after all, their oppressor is also the object of all they cherish, worship and adore.
Will the cutthroat be used to torture as intended or get dropped in the throes of forgiveness; in desperation might the lover turn it on themselves?
As the final corner is turned everything slows; what awaits isn’t the anticipated.
The lover sits alone, a mirror not weapon in hand. It reflects her nemesis – age; the unrelenting and unforgiving passage of time.
The album continues in similar vein, though I’m not put in mind of any particular film directors again. I question why I ever was and what gave me the idea of where it was going given hindsight shows the track pointed in the right direction all along.
I remember what Martin Creed said talking of Work 227: “My work is about fifty per cent what I make of it and fifty per cent what people make of it. Meanings are made in people’s heads. I can’t control them.”
Overall the feeling is light, hazy; songs drift in and out, sometimes warping others distorting. It’s fragile, yet that original sense of something sinister lingers; sometimes rising, but only staying for a moment or two.
One darker segment I’m finding particularly foreboding suddenly speeds up to reveal itself as a light and positive song I know.
It isn’t a simple switch from 33 rpm to 45. The nature of the sound changed in entirety: it became a component of something else; while, in the most essential way, the song remained the same despite being unrecognisable.
After listening to the album a couple of times, I do some reading up starting with Brigitte Bardon’t interviews. From there I follow a hashtag to the Wikipedia page for something called ‘musique concrète‘—a style of music I’d never heard of before—and then end up on You Tube checking out some of the tracks referenced.
Musique concrète might be summarised as the manipulation and modification of existing sounds for the composition of new ones.
How incredibly well this works is demonstrated when even a couple of days later I’m still hearing snippets of familiar songs, only in the their new ‘guise’ on Radio Songs.
The album has me thinking of song segments as singular components of others; the style is fascinating for this alone.
There’s even some reminiscing:
Favourite vinyl not heard in years has distinctive scratches that I still miss hearing when using mp3 or streaming today.
Also of how my early music collection was supplemented by songs taped from radio: I’d skip from one station to another hitting the record button if finding something I liked.
It would sometimes result in the station not being tuned properly.
The vocal solo in Pat Benatar’s ‘Heartbreaker’ had a muffled voice reading news in the background (that like the scratches, I still hear) and for years I thought Theatre of Hate’s ‘Do You Believe in the Westworld?’ sounded completely different to how it does.
Except this is really nothing like that
I wonder at the the nature of this polar—fragile/sinister—sound.
It’s both by definition. At least, when compared to what one might more commonly think of as a song it feels unable to maintain shape; so leaving it feeling weak. While at the same time ‘we’ fear change:
What might it change into, become – will the lamb transpire to be just the wolf’s attire?
Brigitte Bardon’t’s Twitter bio starts: “Aggressively vulnerable”
This has intent
And then some.
I’m quite happy with my reasoning for why the style represents those things so well. But when later going to listen to its pioneers and, for that matter, some of the inspirations mentioned above, what Radio Songs had me think of as ‘by definition’ isn’t found elsewhere.
This is forms at their best.
The further the album goes, the more I drift into my own reverie; relaxed like being in and out of half-sleep on a warm Spring morning somewhere with fresh linen and windows open.
“Hey, Plato,” I say, at my imaginary dinner party for legends both living and years dead. “I know how much you hate the arts and music n’ all – but wait till you hear this: it will blow you’re fucking mind!”
And it does—BOOM!—all over the imaginary Fuseli hanging on the imaginary wall behind him. Meanwhile, Voltaire’s eaten all the canapés and wants to start a brawl . . .
Tracks 11 ‘Bad Girls’ and 12 ‘Summertime’ break the spell, bring me back, demand attention.
It’s impossible to continue adding my own layers to those already there. That which has been lurking, occasionally prodding, has got right up in my face.
Easy for me, sat on my backside in a comfy chair in a country where marijuana is legal, to consider a sensation of not being in control as ‘dream-like‘.
What about other situations, like prison, war-torn regions or even the wrong kind of relationship?
More so the latter, given the way they start all wonderful and great – dreamy. Any cracks dismissed, while beneath that smoothed over things continue to corrode until the stuff of nightmares becomes impossible to ignore.
How to represent how that might feel and have it felt?
That I’ve been able to drift so easily from what the album wants to show is for me part of its point and so just another layer of its brilliance.
This is a work of genius without even considering the method by which it was created or how superbly it speaks for the style.
My sincere thanks to Kristel Jax for the opportunity to review this incredible album; it’s been an education and pleasure.
Pre-order/buy Radio Songs here.
More Brigette Bardon’t can be found @
More from me:
- Marty Wilde, Me and How an Innocent Tweet Changed an Article on the BBC my only other music related post just happens to feature Marty Wilde (track 5 ‘Donna’)
- Oh, Rather! about words, well one word in particular
- Grate Expectations Will Only Lead to Tares more word play
- Saucy Sally a short story inspired by errant sauce
- Patience & the Coffee Maker about trying to be Zen
- From Flags to Fags and Buck-a-Beer: the Biggest Differences Between the UK & Canada like it says on the tin
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan.