A somewhat insular presence in today’s experimentation, the American artist has challenged the collective perception of ambient music – and beyond. A ferocious percussionist, she has toured extensively accompanying other musicians and collaborating with many in the teeming free-jazz and noise circuit. During the pandemic, and without concerts, she gave herself over to digital possibilities. Claire appeared in several solo concerts in streaming format, always enigmatic and deeply intimate. She started working with programs like Ableton while gathering sound recordings of moments at home or in nature. If, on the one hand, the compositional notion has been a constant, on the other, the diversity of origins, scenarios and expressions places her in a fabulous limbo of things. Exploring the ambiguity of the world under complex emotions has become one of many perspectives revealed by Rousay’s irreverent work.
With a series of releases mainly on magnetic tape or vinyl, A Softer Focus has achieved unprecedented projection. It’s an album that you breathe rather than listen to, whose dilution of harmonies, sounds and silences presents a very unique way of being and creating. The use of the voice is another element that is as basic as it is antagonistic; from the naked speeches that sometimes recall the clairvoyance of Laurie Anderson to the pop paintings in which the auto-tune register melts into mere cosmic dust. Surprise is an inherent capacity of Claire Rousay’s living art that confronts and comforts us – one might even say, in similar proportions. As a devotee of the sensory side of music, she finds equal potential both in said instruments and in everyday objects that are hard to imagine as a source of sound. An already immense discography that keeps adding material and represents something of a real archive of this time of now.
These and other ideas materialize, as never before, in concert format. Rousay’s often confessional presentations move the audience out of their comfort zone. Unexpected dialogues (which include interactions with the audience via Air Drop) or unusual in-the-moment recordings are part of the magic of watching the quasi-ritualistic moments she provides live. All in all, an unmissable chance to see one of the greatest acts of this chronological moment. NA