A Softer Focus

Claire Rousay

A Softer Focus

In Claire Rousay’s music, a field recording is never just a record of a place—it also represents a trace of a personal memory, perhaps even a portal to another world. The Texas experimental musician is constantly recording, translating the murmurs and footfalls of the world around her into dreamy abstractions. Unlike some of her records, where she has run personal correspondence through text-to-speech generators—rendering the most intimate details in surreal, robotic tones—language does not play a central role on A Softer Focus. Yet this short, enveloping album is among her most lyrical, emotionally direct works to date. It begins with clatter—fingers tapping on an iPhone, perhaps the rustle of dishes being cleared—but with “Discrete (The Market),” uncharacteristically harmonic sounds rise in the mix, suffusing everything with a warm glow. The reassuringly consonant piano, cello, and synthesizer constitute the record’s nostalgic through line, recalling post-classical composers like Sarah Davachi. But no matter how lulling Rousay’s melodies become, the line between music and sound remains provocatively fuzzy. In “Diluted Dreams,” sparkling drones are shot through with the sounds of passing traffic and kids playing on the street; “Stoned Gesture” flickers in the light of fireworks exploding overhead. Only Rousay knows the precise meaning of these sounds, but for the rest of us, they are suggestive triggers, as evocative as the scent of a freshly cut lawn or hot pavement after a summer rain.

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