By Nick Ostrum
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.