CD, Audiotrauma, 2004
“Insensé,” the latest release from Audiotrauma co-founder Sonic Area, is a bold, bewildering expedition rooted in the restless underworld of deeply fractured dark ambient and unnerving illbient. Intensely urban and claustrophobic to the point of antipathy, the music incessantly delivers thickly tactile grooves and patiently malevolent broken beats over the course of sixteen brilliant tracks.
It seems “Insensé” aims at subconscious vulnerability – the listener is never quite sure where the next bass-heavy drop will plunge or dissonant chord will stumble against layered drones and eerie, shuddering drums. From the outset (brooding “Les Jardins Suspendus”), it is characterized by statically charged ambient textures and passages barely constrained by surprisingly accessible downtempo beat-oriented sounds. Often added to this rich mélange is a menacing undercurrent of half-heard spectral voices bubbling upward (“Le Silence Brûle Doucement”), or spoken words cutting in more clearly and abruptly against a suspended tone or acid squeal. To underscore the apparent disturbing objective of “Insensé,” a voice in “La Raison Des Fous” repeats paranoid over and over, and “La Mémoire Des Yeux” begins with the words there’s something here… do you see anything?
Sonic Area is not afraid to break new ground, as “Les Voix Transpercées” is a fascinating excursion into carefully crafted and manipulated human voices. These wavering and organic constructions add not only a manifest element of human character but also arresting originality to “Insensé.” Following this theme further, “Nous N’avons Pas D’autres” includes a woman’s voice, perhaps infused with desperation, endlessly looping in opposition to an unfamiliar, repetitive fragment of melody spilling from an exotic Middle Eastern bazaar. With each recurrence, Sonic Area demonstrates that disconcerting juxtapositions such as these are the bedrock upon which “Insensé” expands and thrives. Through unsettling barrages of grinding and penetrating bass, drones of fizzing, maladjusted circuitry, and raw downtempo percussion, “Insensé” itself seems purged. When the final track (“Le Réel”) trails off into oblivion, with the cyclical fuzziness of a record left to spin idly on a turntable, the listener is left slack-jawed and cathartic in the wake of Sonic Area’s skillful ministrations on this darkly intoxicating recording.
— Dutton Hauhart