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holocene extinction

by jamie drouin

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i have been reflecting on david tudor’s rainforest series, of which i own a handful of recorded versions ranging from 1968 to 1973 and, coincidently, was one of the earliest experimental albums i owned. while tudor’s intention was to create an “electronic ecology” rather than evoke a literal rainforest, given the political climate of the late 60s/early 70s, i consider rainforest to also function as environmental art, with the most obvious theme being the natural world supplanted by human-made objects.

in the intervening years since rainforest was first presented, humans have managed to find a myriad of ways to increase the scale of daily destruction to the living world. the synthetic metaphor to nature in rainforest is, in many instances, the only version we have left.

holocene extinction is a continuation of the dialogue between rainforest and my specific conversation with its meaning. it’s also an album made from deep frustration and sense of loss. i live in a canadian province where, for decades, we have advertised ourselves as a place to experience sprawling ancient forests. the truth is that very little of our old growth forest remains, with some of the last old growth currently falling to industrial logging. we continue to move forward with the shared knowledge that our living world is being chipped away, poisoned, and genetically altered, as if we somehow imagine ourselves separate or exempt from the same fate.

- jamie drouin


Jamie Drouin’s Holocene Extinction may appear to be derived from the torpid despair many felt at the worst of the pandemic and quarantine. The connection, however, is hardly so straightforward. Drouin himself sites David Tudor’s Rainforests and the forests of his local Victoria as his influences. Still, there is some overlap between the two poles of timberlands and pandemic, of trees and disappearance, which lies in the “deep frustration and sense of loss” that drive these two pieces. Here, that loss is not interpersonal but ecological and reminds that a human-caused catastrophe looms around us, even in the areas branded as “natural” and untouched by modern society. Electronic ambience and collages are somewhat ironic media to convey such sentiments. Yet, the media is part of the meditation and, per Drouin, “The synthetic metaphor to nature…is, in many ways, the only version we have left.”

In a brief 25 minutes, Holocene Extinction captures the immensity of that synthesized space of nature. Ominous ringing and softly unsheathed tones form the canvas on which strange rattlings, creaks of no clear derivation, synthetized or extrapolated percussive noises, and various other sounds appear briefly and leave their ghostly trails. Human voices periodically and briefly pop up most often through a mist of radio fuzz. Through the rest of the two pieces the presence of humanity (beyond just Drouin himself) is shrouded behind the sonic map but implied in the electronic beeps and fizzle. Simple melodies float into perception at times and are stretched and disappear once they become discernible. I would venture to say that this ambivalence – the desire to capture nature through electronic sound art while allowing for the necessity of human presence – is what keeps the Holocene Extinction coherent. It offers problematics, but no answers. It merely points to the inextricability of nature and humanity, especially in the Holocene/Anthropocene. This is a skillfully and imaginatively, if also somewhat grimly, posed interrogation of the interconnectivity of life, rather than a statement of exactly what that interdependency bodes. - Nick Ostrum | The Free Jazz Collective


released April 8, 2021

composed and mastered by jamie drouin
cover artwork by lance austin olsen


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Infrequency Arts Victoria, British Columbia

Established in 2001, Infrequency Arts represents the solo and collaborative works of Canadian artists Lance Austin Olsen & Jamie Drouin.

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