The tracks were originally written to soundtrack a film about Donna Haraway, a feminist philosopher of science, technology and nature best known for writing A Cyborg Manifesto. But when filmmaker Fabrizio Terranova approached him to compose the score, Baudoux asked not to be shown the film. Instead, he had the director recount scenes from the documentary, which situates Haraway at home in Southern California. Baudoux responded impressionistically to Terranova's stories about "wandering, nature, the deep sea, the West Coast winds, science fiction and surf."
The music that came out of it is vivid, dynamic and full of complex emotions. Its lead melodies and harmonies often evoke some striking image or mood, though the exact referent often remains blurry or out of reach. Rather than aiming for single-noted sentiments like happiness or sadness, he trusts the listener to parse complex constellations of feelings that both enrich and obfuscate each other. Even over the course of a single chord progression, Le Doux can move through multiple emotional states, introducing unexpected inflection points and uneasy resolutions that are at once satisfying and impenetrable. "Fab's Sunday," a gently warped synth pop cut, channels that tension with upbeat harmonies tainted by subtle shades of dissonance.
In an interview from a couple years ago, the Brooklyn producer Via App told me she likes to use samples "like characters on a stage." This is how Baudoux uses melodies and instruments. I'm reminded of Peter And The Wolf, with its musical themes assigned to characters, which capture their essence and signal their entry onto the stage. The tracks "Koko The Gorilla" and "Koko The Gorilla (Part 2)," for example, are variations on a theme, almost like an operatic reprise where one motif reappears in a new context. The original version is a perky drum machine exercise with a speedy gait reminiscent of South African Shangaan music. Part two draws out the melodic element, as if we're seeing a different side of the same character.
After a string of rhythm-heavy tracks, the album takes a moody, ambient turn around the halfway mark. "Agility" is mostly just a wistful arrangement of vintage MIDI strings—a progression that suggests loss, then longing and ultimately resolves into a cautiously optimistic major chord. The synth textures, and what sounds like a thin layer of tape saturation, give the whole thing an '80s sci-fi veneer. The thick reverb suggests a vast emptiness, a space station rotating in the vacuum a long way from home. All of Music For Documentaries is visually suggestive in this way, and it begins to feel quite narrative as it passes through different images and color palettes. In the end it's not so much like a single story codified into sound, but a gentle suggestion of movement, tension and drama.