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Natasha Barrett
Heterotopia Agata Kik , March 17th, 2022 07:34

Acousmatic composer Natasha Barrette makes musique concrète feel like a thrilling adventure film, finds Agata Kik

Heterotopia is an intriguing investigation into the sculpturing and spatialisation of sound, carried out by acclaimed acousmatic musician Natasha Barrett. Released on Persistence of Sound, with a palette embracing musique concrète, field recordings and electroacoustic music, the album refuses to be put into any one category. The sound is so vividly visual and its textures so tactile, Heterotopia feels more like an adventure movie than a mere act of listening.

The title highlights the fact that space is not singular, and a place is never one. Combining the particular plasticity of numerous diverse sound sources, separating and accentuating each of them so precisely from early on, to later layer them all together immediately, makes the experience of listening to Heterotopia truly cinematic.

Internationally renowned as a composer of 3D audio and ambisonics, UK-born Norway-based artist Natasha Barett uses space as an instrument. Her new album is a testimony to the fact that spaces speak, and they do that in their very own language – a language that anyone can understand. Sound here has the potential to erect an unknown space from scratch anywhere it is played and as soon as it reaches one’s tingling skin. Relating to the concept by philosopher Michel Foucault, who’s term ‘heterotopia’ pointed to the fact that there are still spaces in the social system that seem too strange to fit into the rigid regulations and prescribed dynamics of order, Natasha Barrett uses the album as a Foucault’s metaphorical mirror, containing worlds within worlds, reflecting sounds from objects, distorting the images of the material reality and the surrounding environment.

The first two tracks on the album are in the highest quality ambisonics currently supported. There is depth and thickness to the soundscape, but what is mostly prominent is the sound’s movement. The remarkable synthesis of sonic spectra, translating long durations of time spent in vast spaces in many diverse places into a telescoped experiential idea of an altered space captured in each of the album’s tracks, mesmerises the experiencing body, hypnotising the mind to follow the movement in this mentally-moulded hyperreality.

There are sounds of a woodpecker, a machine gun, a ping pong ball bouncing away, birds whistling and deep forest roars, a sudden whine, chirping insects and suspicious steps coming closer, crashing piles of dry grass, getting louder and slowly fading away later on. The scale and the size of sound sources alternate so abruptly, while the distance between them changes so unexpectedly that, as a result, the three-dimensionality of the reverberatory range entraps the listener like into a cacophonic cocoon or a stringless spider web. The album absolutely asks for repeated listening. Like a walk in a forest or along a shoreline, every time we enter the same space the experience is constructed anew.