from THE WIRE, September 2004

>> La Défense is to Paris what Canary Wharf is to London, a sprawl of predominantly corporate skyscrapers spanning the nearby towns of Puteaux and Courbevoie across the Seine three miles to the west of the Arc de Triomphe. In May 2001 sound artist Michael Rüsenberg took his microphones there on a warm spring evening to record everything from the local kids hanging out rapping on the steps of the new Grande Arche to the desolate whirr of escalators and ventilators in the huge railway station under La Défense's central esplanade. His >>"La Défense - stage urbain" is a 39-minute work in seven continuously running movements, whose titles sometimes provide useful clues to the source sounds. >> "La Défense arrival" captures the enormity of the central access to the station, from the myriad footsteps of massed commuters and the beeps of the new electronic Navigo Métro tickets to the squeaks and whines of dozens of escalators. Elsewhere, Rüsenberg's approach to his source material is more abstract, but in no way averse to explicit pulse. Even before the beatboxing of the closing "Rap d'Arche" and Rüsenberg's descent onto the deserted platforms of the Métro to take him back to Paris, several infectious grooves lurk beneath the surface, notably on "First Flute". Not surprisingly perhaps, the other musicians he chooses to remix his material, including Steve Argüelles, Eric La Casa, Ned Bouhalassa and Benoît Delbecq, pick up on the beat, with varying degrees of success. Ned Bouhalassa, born in Le Mans but now resident in Canada, is as happy to be compared to Aphex Twin as he is to his musique concrète mentor Francis Dhomont, and his >>"Le choeur de la Défense" gleefully jumps on Rüsenberg's implied backbeats to cook up seven minutes of skilfully mixed drum'n'bass. In contrast, Argüelles' >>"Metro Mix (in the plush seat)" is little more than a flaccid midtempo groove, and Delbecq seems compelled to add some of his own piano playing in a curious and rather inconclusive coda to the album. Only Eric La Casa's >>"Une rugosité, à la périphérie du gris" resists the beat, preferring to concentrate on La Défense's resonant spaces.

Dan Warburton