Quiet, occasional creaking, shuffling, breathing — is this someone sleeping? Then an old, echoey tape recording of a man and a boy playing in what sounds like an alleyway. The man crouches, then lifts the giggling boy into the air. Another voice in the background, a woman’s. The tape is then stopped, replayed, and accelerated into cacophonous noise — ah, so we are listening to the sleeper’s dream. Dreams are held by some to reveal hidden emotions and memories; “the royal road to the unconscious” is what Freud called them. A salon at the bottom of a lake, indeed. What else lies buried beneath the waters?
Stopping and starting, whirring, hissing, speeding up and slowing down. A snippet of late Romantic piano. Slow, melancholy chords. Tonal noise. Another piano, this time soft and tentative. Tape artefacts used as instruments. A baby’s cooing. The structure appears thus: two halves, ‘Un salon’ and ‘Un lac’, separated by a brief interlude titled, perhaps ironically, ‘La structure’. This latter track is very different from the two it separates, consisting of a male voice repeating numbers in English, with waves breaking, the cawing of seagulls, and deep squelching that might be the same male voice slowed right down. And yet in each of the tracks a brief electronic chirp, like the one my old Discman used to make when it reached the end of the CD, intermittently sounds, suggesting that ‘La structure’ is more closely related to the rest of the album than initially appears — a moment of waking consciousness that only deepens the mystery of the dream.
In a lot of ways, the triangulation between (auditory) image, dream, and memory gives “Un salon au fond d’un lac” more than a passing resemblance to Chris Marker’s seminal 1962 film La Jetée. I’m reminded too of the dream recording device imagined by Wim Wenders and Solveig Dommartin for the film Until the End of the World. Of course, this is only one way of understanding the various tape recordings and manipulations amassed and orchestrated by Marc Baron for this album, with many other routes through the rich and diverse material no doubt possible. Certainly, though, the work’s vague air of melancholy clings to the senses like the aftereffects of a maddeningly half-remembered dream.