Choreographies of Decay
The Japanese dance form butoh — for which dancers in white body paint generate painstaking movements — began after the Second World War. The dances of Tatsumi Hijikata explored the experience of the Japanese suffering body, and in the mid-1970s, Hijikata started giving dancers sketches and notes to push them towards this understanding of the form. Choreographies of Decay, the new album from Aix-en-Provence producer J.Doursou [J.D], functions in much the same way, relaying a series of sonic instructions for dancing at the end of the world.
After a series of releases under the name MY.HEAD, ranging from the longform Catharsis to several singles, albums and EPs, Choreographies of Decay is Doursou’s first album released under his name. Doursou works as a graphic designer, working in a wide range of visual media, with a deep understanding of how to translate between nonvisual and visual realms. Fitting, then, that he imagined the album as a dance piece. Like American Dreams labelmate claire rousay on her album a softer focus, Doursou incorporates field recordings into Choreographies of Decay, but where rousay’s field recordings traffic in intimacy, connecting a constellation of shared moments, Doursou’s hearken to a world without. His album draws from texts that imagine dystopian futures or supernatural events — video games like Nier Automata or The Last Of Us, the film Suspiria — and philosophy ranging from the existentialist to the post-structural. The album’s goal is to provide “a soundtrack to the moment,” excavated from the crises enmeshed within the COVID-19 pandemic.
The result is a dark, dense work, integrating a wide range of acoustic and electronic elements. Opening track “buildings will become their tombstones” foregrounds muted sheets of sound, evoking dial tones and the trappings of everyday life; meanwhile, “weeping idols” mixes an insistent synthesizer motif with a distant choir, first evoking sirens, then the hissing curvature of computer noise. “Jonas” is a microcosm of the album, mixing the incidental and diegetic: a slow, dampened piano riff interrupted by abrasive synth churns and ghostly choral suggestions. Here the music is sufficiently immersive to suggest that listeners are but a collection of characters in Doursou’s game, dancers in his dance. The synthesized swells of “foliage, filling voids,” and its crackling current in the high octaves, suggest the difficulty of finding reasons to carry on in circumstances that seem beyond redemption. If the former is a song for after watching the asteroid, penultimate tracks “surrounded by silence” and “cultural data”—with voices, guitar, here and there a hint of footsteps—are for staring it in the face. What do you do in a moment like that one? Doursou suggests two possibilities: observational versus active, cautious versus decisive. You can listen, you can dance.
Written, produced and arranged by J.Doursou (2020-2021)
Artwork by Zivile Aleknaviciute
Mastered by Andrew Weathers
special thanks to: Jordan, Pierre-Henri, Thomas, PEEV, Adèle, Baptiste, Zivile, Ben, Loïc, Joe, Pierre, Juan... and everyone i’ve forgot who has supported me during the making of this album.