Travelogue is the logical continuation of Herbert Distel’s engrossment for the psychoacoustic attributes related to tripping by train, and is directly descending from his previous efforts Die Reise and La Stazione, from which the bulk of the acoustic constituents are taken. I did not use the expression “tripping by train” casually, so let’s clarify a bit in order to promptly expel lysergic interpretations. The sonorities presented in this cycle derive, for the large part, from the mechanical, human and animal traits informing the composer’s experience. However, the overall result sets the audience into a dimension that stands halfway through the most oneiric aspects of such a soundscape (sleeping on a coach is indeed a sort of hallucination) and a near-shamanic reiteration of fundamental elements. A modicum of electronic penumbras and occasional (taped) ghost choirs highlight certain particles more dramatically.
The main textures defining this last incarnation of Distel’s memory are the railway noise, the ascending hum of accelerating locomotives, the voices of the station’s speakers announcing arrivals, delays and what else is communicated in that context, and the appearance of crickets and cicadas (more or less processed). The latter obviously suggest the idea of pleasurable warmth, representing a direct individual correspondence for many (for one, this writer has been fixated with everything train since his early childhood, and has traveled during innumerable summers by that means to reach beloved shores). Also beautifully portrayed is the feel of semi-secure chill typical of a passage across tunnels, a trademark “whooshing Doppler” clangor indicating the moment. The insistent repetition of announcement snippets may not be particularly revolutionary in compositional terms; yet it furnishes the piece with the same unsubstantial magnetism found in the work of, say, Zoviet France and Nurse With Wound. Right there lies Travelogue’s slight contradiction: born as a rigorous acousmatic creation, it ultimately ends – through several ear-rewarding choices – into the aesthetic realm of sonic materials that allure and lull via relatively “economical” structures. It still remains quite nice to listen to: headphones are recommended.