Hugely impressive second album from Jasmine Guffond landing again via the collectable Sonic Pieces imprint and sounding something like a much more disturbed Holly Herndon or this years mind-altering new album from Felicia Atkinson. It’s a compellingly immersive study of digital surveillance technologies and the way they, along with myriad other machines, impinge upon and frame our waking life.
In Traced, Guffond takes the textural and spatially sensitive ambient aesthetics of her previous LP, the acclaimed Yellow Bell, into palpably more paranoid and unnerving headspaces, using her filigree appreciation of electro-acoustic dynamics to convey that feeling with a subtlety which will surely resonate with anyone aware of digital surveillance technology’s transition from peripheral creep to a near ubiquitous presence.
The key to the work really lies in the way Jasmine’s sleight of hand keeps listeners lulled or focussed on one of her hypnotic elements without fully realising that the atmospheric pressure has become almost unbearably tense, almost making us think; this sound is really dreamy but why am I feeling so anxious?!
Harder to detect or perceive, though, is the presence of actual human features which are imprinted quite literally thru her careful, cut-up and layered vocals, and more imperceptibly via the inclusion of data generated from facial recognition systems and translated into auditory shapes which infiltrate the soundfield - in a way recalling Aphex Twin’s face represented in the spectrographic image for Windowlicker, but in reverse, or even the glitching facial recognition code spotted by Lee Gamble.
In structure and tone, Traced recalls elements of Christina Kubisch’s electromagnetic sound walks as much as the semi-organic simulacra generated from Deathprod’s audiovirus, but it’s the sense of almost Ballardian dread within her narrative that really sets Traced in its own realm of sonic fiction, effectively, innovayvely transposing an underlying feeling or observation of everyday life into a sort deeply uncanny model or simulacra which we wager will ring true with many listeners.