Somnambule - Writing About Music

Lutz Glandien ~ Lost In Rooms, A Virtualelectric Story

Words arrive suddenly, enunciated in a calm, wondering manner. They recount a memory of a childhood home which is given colouration by the soundscaping that envelopes its description. Sound and music succeeds narration seamlessly, lucent like lights slowly emerging out of thick fog.

The narrator returns altered partway through the second track, initial calmness now replaced by agitation. His words are now torn from his throat - they’re stretched, squeezed and reversed to the point where cognitive recognition is impossible. The effect is unsettling, as though the speaker has become a ghost and is haunting the music. Prevented from articulation he cannot be understood or find peace. The rhythm of the music appears to echo the rhythms of the speech that preceded it. Syllables become hisses, phonemes become screeches indistinguishable from the thin screams of devils.

Next, a brief memory of walking along train tracks is recounted by the narrator now made whole again (the effect is like that of a return from the dead), but it’s impossible not to observe an increased vulnerability. Other treated voices appear and disappear and their different timbres expand the breadth of the drama. It seems as if they’re spirits bearing witness to events which it might only be possible to comprehend intuitively.

The music that ebbs and flows around these speakers is twitchy, insect-like, electronic, but it has a brutal component of implied violence – unexpected crashes jolt the listener. The tearing to which the voice is subjected is applied also to the music. Lost In Rooms triggers a particular association with Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel House Of Leaves where sentences twist, turn and stretch in typographical reflection of the contortions of the possessed house which is the book’s subject.

It would be a mistake to refer to Lost In Rooms as filmic. It stands as a self-contained piece which conjures images in the mind’s eye less predictable than the vast majority of soundtracks. As its subtitle states it’s a story, but one which is composed in large part by the listener, given cryptic signs by the composer and his narrators. Lost In Rooms is a convincing synthesis of drama, memory, ambience and music which may sit proudly alongside Russell Mills (which appears lighter in comparison) and Deadly Weapons (a one-off project involving Steve Beresford, David Toop and John Zorn), to name two possibly comparable projects.

The final narrative episode recounts a return to a long unvisited childhood home and the lack of recognition of the now changed environment. Lost In Rooms is saturated with threat, eeriness and horror - sensations which are the distillation of the familiar become strange.
Colin Buttimer
January 2004
Published by the BBC