Review: Paul Ramage – Détours de Manège (Dasa Tapes, May 13)

0024877245_10I once read an excellent pseudo-topological analysis of Beckett’s Malone Dies and The Unnamable that focused on the renowned author’s linguistic construction of narrative selves as “vessels,” specifically a Klein bottle, a “container-contained” object that defies conventional concepts of inside and outside (Dukes, Hunter. “Beckett’s Vessels and the Animation of Containers.” Journal of Modern Literature 40.4 (Summer 2017): 75–89). In The Lost Ones, a later and lesser-known but no less essential work, the geometric figure of interest is a cylinder—“fifty metres round and sixteen high for the sake of harmony” (202)—in which mobile bodies absent of any recognizable humanness act out a bleak semblance of existence. The first and title piece on accomplished sound artist Paul Ramage’s new tape Détours de Manège (Carousel Detour) is influenced by this setting, and in collaboration with choreographer Flora Gaudin aims to “stage the desperate quest for an outcome that we all know does not exist within our hearts”—some Beckett shit for sure. The dense, kinetic music seems rhythmic in the absolute loosest sense of the word; it appropriately “throbs with constant unchanging beat and fast but not so fast that the pulse is no longer felt,” cascading tendrils of burbling electronics, crystalline concrète, and dizzying stereo sweeps “brush[ing],” like the cylinder-bound entities, “together with a rustle of dry leaves” (Beckett 203, 213). To see this piece performed in full would most likely be awe-inspiring with an undercurrent of profound dread (sound familiar?). After a brief interlude, “Changement de cap” (“Change of course”) takes a similar approach to abstract dance scoring, this time highly allusive to “traditional” forms and genres even as its haunting, loop-stitched, near-formless soundscape pulls further and further away from familiarity. All in all a brief but deceptively difficult release that succeeds in connecting the nigh-unconnectable.

See Jonathan Boulter’s recent book Posthuman Space in Beckett’s Short Prose for some excellent writing on The Lost Ones and other works collected in Grove Press’s Complete Short Prose volume.