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Roger Doyle - Rapid Eye Movements

Between releasing his two early Lps ‘Thalia’ and ‘Oizzo no’ and his stunning 5CD opus ‘Babel’ Roger Doyle found time to release this seminal Lp on Steve Stapleton’s United Dairies label. Here on CD it is repackaged with a bonus track from the said Babel project. The original tracks ‘Rapid eye movement’ and the other long piece ‘Fin-Estra’ reveal the progression that Doyle’s sound was making from the early tape and fairlight synthesizer works on the first two Lps to the superlative electro-acoustic masterworks on ‘Babel‘.

‘Fin-Estra’ demonstrates many of the techniques that would be further developed on ‘Babel‘. The music is a combination of field recordings (mainly children playing outside the studio window) and transformed pieces of Doyle’s work for orchestra, All the rage. The orchestral music is warped into gushes of whooshing and spiralling sound. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. The combination of the children’s voices (which are also subject to studio manipulations) and the strange warped strings and brass are very disorientating, hinting at the sorts of imaginary landscapes that would be at the heart of ‘Babel‘. At times mellow and mysterious and sometimes quite noisy and violent ‘Fin-Estra’ is an excellent (Ferrari like) entry point into the title work.

Rapid eye movements are a phenomenon that occur while a person is in REM sleep, the state in which people dream. In keeping with the concept the ‘Rapid eye movements’ piece is a wild and exotic collage of electro-acoustic soundscapes, chamber music and musique concrete. It begins in wonderful style as electronic effects and tape manipulations dance around a melancholic piano rhythm. Voices in the distant haze and unexplained sounds wizz all around. There is a consistent theme of memory and repetition within the pieces 25 minute duration. Sound events are often revisited and displayed from a different perspective giving an almost deja-vu feeling. This is of course intentional as the music reflects the disorientating and non-linear nature of dreams. Field recordings play a prominent role in the piece, whether it’s the sound of a person walking up a gravel path or French children speaking in massed conversation. There is a lot of jump cut editing and no one theme stays for more than a couple of minutes before the sounds may change and the mood altered, but most themes are revisited several times, this all adds to an already captivating atmosphere, you could never get board with this music. There are times when the atmosphere moves into more nightmare territory, where the electronic noise closes in and strange voices come in from the ether, but before it get to much the scene changes and you are left on top of a wind swept hill listening to gentle music while birds fly over head. An essential and classic composition.

The final track ‘Temple Music - Earth to earth’ is one of the more electro-acoustic tracks off Babel. Here the sounds of a Bassoon, Flute and Violin are mixed with Doyle’s keyboards and cut-up electronics. It’s not one of my favourite tracks of Babel but it does showcase Doyle’s award winning manipulation of acoustic instrumental sounds. It’s a stop start almost staccato piece that has not much in the way of melody or rhythm. In fact it sounds more like a ritualistic piece of music for a ceremony. Perhaps this is the intention as it is titled ‘Temple Music‘. Whether this track interested you or not I would highly recommend the Babel box set and of course this ‘Rapid eye movements’ CD also.