An auditory challenge is contained within the depths of a Brigitte Bardon’t recording. Through waves of radio static or submerged drones, familiar tonal patterns coalesce before the mind, only to dissipate as quickly as they arrived.
Kristel Jax’s multifarious sound art project – the name of which is a telling pun on 1960’s cultural French icon Brigitte Bardot – re-creates and re-interprets the language of popular culture through a found sound compositional approach a la musique concrete.
Jax refers to this style simply as pop concrete, which she describes as:“musique concrete that’s obsessed with pop music and pop culture, and pulls from them as sources for field recordings, which sometimes makes for results similar to what Plunderphonics was doing but with a very different approach. In my understanding [pop concrete is] more lo-fi and/or organic, often with noises from the room, and often improvised.”
Jax’s pre-occupation with the signification of popular culture in her music goes beyond mere aesthetics or kitsch. As she notes, “pop is everywhere just by its nature […] it becomes a symbolic language.”
Thus, Brigitte Bardon’t functions to de-construct or re-contextualize the symbolic language of pop. Whether surfing through French radio transmissions, drowning Justin Bieber in reverb or mimicking Disney Cartoon musicals, Jax is re-orienting the emotional framework in which the listener is attuned to the motifs of popular music.
As Brigitte Bardon’t dabbles in three different stylistic approaches to the pop concrete aesthetic (Radio Songs, Pop Songs and her Infinite Poolside re-recordings), pop motifs manifest in a variety of forms throughout her work.
For example, the “Radio Songs” approach involves the manipulation of live radio signals to create a singular, original composition that contains recognizable but fragmented content.
Jax explains how her “Radio Songs” work to tap into the cultural language of various cities she visits.
“I try to record a radio track anywhere I go, there’s one from outside of Milan, one from Brooklyn, one from Niagara Falls, etc. With my old project, Alpha Couple, I started using a radio live on tour because you could tune into that city’s pop culture and manipulate it even if you didn’t speak the language, it was a fun way to engage with an audience. People might laugh at a joke you performed that you didn’t understand.”
For Brigitte Bardon’t, the medium of radio and the act of live broadcasting serves to bridge cultural gaps through language, songs, jokes or stories.
In a sense, then, Brigitte Bardon’t has become a channel wherein a multitude of different voices can be heard. As Jax explains, she is interested in “telling stories and being a conduit for different perspectives and experiences that I relate to in vague ways.”
This is particularly evident when Jax describes the inspiration for the forthcoming Brigitte Bardon’t full-length album O/L.
“O / L is about an abusive relationship and the escape from that situation, but it’s also about the experience of one woman interpreting another woman telling her own story. L would talk about every detail of her life, and I watched her videos for years. She’d been made fun of on some prominent websites by people who had no idea what she was going through, so she started uploading videos every day detailing who she was. She wanted her story to be available to help people, and my response has been to download everything I can over the years, I’m totally a data hoarder, I didn’t want that emotion or story to get lost.”
The conceptual framework of O / L seems to encompass the notions of context, narrative, language and connection that pervade throughout all facets of Brigitte Bardon’t.
Jax notes that the Bardon’t project is a continuation of things she was exploring in her previous act Alpha Couple, including O / L. Although O / Lwill eventually be released as an LP, she says that it does not “start or end as an LP.”
Perhaps this is to say that the task of embedding oneself within the world of another person, learning to speak their language and feel their feelings is quintessential to the entire project of Brigitte Bardon’t.
Certainly, the idea of embodiment is central to Jax’s art. Even when singing lyrics written in the first person, she insists that they do not relate to personal experiences.
Nevertheless, she is quick to point out that she still relates to all the material emotionally. This dynamic of separation is a characteristic of pop music that she enjoys working with.
“A lot of [pop artists] have outside song-writers or they assume characters, and I like working with that distance.”
This “pop artist” persona that Jax has taken to may confound some as her music often buries the usual markers of a Top 40 smash hit.
Nevertheless, they are there.
The ingenuity of the Brigitte Bardon’t project lies in its subversion of the listener’s expectations. Jax invites us to cognize her music through the structured parameters of pop while de-constructing and re-purposing those very parameters.
In effect, the listener is forced to expand their conception of pop and experimental music, uniting intellectual and aesthetic considerations.
Jax is not self-serious about this aspect of her music, however.
“I think it’s fun to say I want all my works with Bardon’t to be approached like they’re pop songs. Maybe it looks really serious written on my website but it’s kind of a joke, I think it’s more friendly to make a harsh noise track or minimal field recording with radio waves or a mixtape of a film soundtrack drowning in reverb and then be firm about how it’s definitely a song, definitely music.”
This attitude is indicative of the fine balance between levity and thoughtfulness, accessibility and dissonance, organization and spontaneity that can be found throughout the project of Brigitte Bardon’t.
Jax’s music may be construed as pop, experimental, or something wholly other, but it never fails to captivate. Brigitte Bardon’t exists within many different worlds at once, flipping through the static between people, cultures, scenes and stories.
Brigitte Bardon’t performs for the SBVRSV ‘FEMININE WRATH’ showcase Sept. 22nd alongside TRNSGNDR/VHS, Cosi e Cosi, Girls Rituals & Chia Seed.