As one of the most long-serving and best-selling artists affiliated to London’s Clay Pipe Music, Jon Brooks forms a strong part of the label’s backbone and collective conceptual philosophy. Yet he stands apart from the enterprise’s more openly bucolic signings, preferring predominantly electronically-mapped routes into pyschogeographical journeying. This is certainly most apparent on this latest offering for the imprint. Although self-described as a sonic travelogue inspired by a visit to Brittany and Normandy in France, this is not your average coast-to-coast crossing and ruralist road-trip soundtrack.
Rather than placing upfront the sounds that you might expect from such an excursion, Autres Directions seems to derive its course-plotting from elevating both elemental and background components to the fore, as an astutely amorphous ambient affair. Inevitably, Brian Eno’s own forays in such aural realms are major touchstones throughout but the album is no mere homage piece. You can’t cut something this minimal and diaphanous whilst still shaping a mood by just simple hero worship. Hence, Brooks stitches together synths, programmed percussion, drones and various field recordings of wildlife, people, ferries, trains and unconventional environmental spaces into a flowing sustainable piece.
Therefore, Autres Directions moves from the buzzing mechanical noises and percolating beats of the waking and disembarking “Se Reveiller”; through the prowling backwards reverberations and comforting seashore-lapping of “Le Château”; inside the foreboding rail-roadside and woodland mysteries of the Tangerine Dream-indebted “PN_17”; across the ghostly urban meditations of the early-4AD-imbued title-track; via the Faten Kanaan-like pirouetting spectral keyboards and found sounds of “L’ancienne Grange”; out into the ecclesiastical organs and wilderness of “Lanverec”; beneath the church bell tolling and barely-there whirrs of “Centre Ville”; and exits with the transportation-noise collaging of the aptly-named “Sortie”.
As an assured and open-ended wordless statement, Autres Directions unfolds itself differently according to its listening context; such is its permeability to the bleed-in of outside sounds. Thus, this writer’s first spin on headphones during an urban commute brought out different details to the final review airing session next to the chugging fan of a home computer – which is probably something its author would be pleased about. Admittedly, this isn’t a long-player for anyone easily distracted by the far more arresting sounds of modern life but for those that need its thoughts-creating spaciousness, Autres Directions is a discrete pleasure.