Oscillations planétaires Chantal Dumas

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Oscillations planétaires offers a lot to the listener, on many different levels. Musique Machine, UK

Dumas manages to convey the interdependence of personal experience and shared environment with illuminating subtlety. The Wire, UK

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Oscillations planétaires

Chantal Dumas

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In the press

  • Martin P, Musique Machine, May 11, 2020
    Oscillations planétaires offers a lot to the listener, on many different levels.
  • Julian Cowley, The Wire, no. 433, March 1, 2020
    Dumas manages to convey the interdependence of personal experience and shared environment with illuminating subtlety.
  • Baze Djunkiii, nitestylez.de, February 10, 2020
    Our favorite cut: Marée crustale. File under: conceptualism in full effect.
  • Saul Bleaeck, Toneshift, December 18, 2019
    The predominant presence of electroacoustic effects, which define the album, are none more prevalent than during Magnétisme terrestre. Desired or not, the overall take-away affect of the album is a concrete eco-consciousness. There isn’t an ounce of proselytism herein.
  • Linus Tossio, Freq, December 16, 2019
    As evocations of the grandeur of terrestrial existence goes, Oscillations planétaires is rather remarkably successful, its balance between simulation and abstract allusion finely judged.

Review

Martin P, Musique Machine, May 11, 2020

This is the first solo album from Chantal Dumas, released on empreintes DIGITALes, a Montréal label ’widely considered as the world leader in electroacoustics / acousmatics’ — though I’ll admit that it’s not a name known to me. Oscillations planétaires consists of nine electroacoustic pieces built around the interesting premise that the Earth contains ’undulatory motions of extremely varied temporal scales,’ contrasting, for example, imperceivable geological shifts with the daily movements of tides. This is an interesting, provocative idea but ultimately these things stand or fall, for me, on the quality of the sounds attached; Dumas does not disappoint.

In the spirit of the ‘temporal scales’ I mentioned, the first track, Tremblements de terre; Plaque antarctique; Subduction; Fosse océanique, begins with wind-like sounds and low end judders, before seismic reverberations erupt cavernously. Amidst the more ‘traditional’ electroacoustic sounds, it’s notable that a ambient-esque patch flickers in and out of the piece, before ending with cascading downward shimmers. The following track is somewhat of a reversal of the first, with long ascending drones; as Convection mantellique progresses it almost sounds like a processed recording of a warehouse, with circling vehicles, alarm sounds, and general hubbub, all laid on an eerie droning underbelly. Geysers begins with sea sounds, complete with something that sounds like seagulls, though all processed and spatially disrupted; this environment is then punctured by attacking percussive sounds, and what might be whale breath, indeed the track draws attention to the comparable cadences of breath and tide. From whales we turn to the insect chirruping of the fourth piece, which builds into a dense, expansive drone that is reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream and their ilk — complete with a suitable synth solo from Dumas. Whilst Marée crustale returns to the sea, with the sound of waves (also interrupted by electro thuds, as with Geysers) building into an almost orchestral lushness from more ambient pads; Magnétisme terrestre presents more recognisably electroacoustic fare, with a constantly shifting array of electronic sounds showing Dumas’ careful attention to detail — in particular some exquisite moments that sound like tape saturation, spilling and decaying. The next two pieces, Dorsale médio-atlantique and Ondes sismiques,’ jolt the listener. Although examination of the press release reveals that Oscillations planétaires was conceived with help from a small group of acoustic musicians, utilising baritone saxophone, flute, piano, and drums, it is with the opening of Dorsale médio-atlantique that we first hear any recognisable contributions from them — even though the saxophone and flute had been previously deployed. Thus the piece begins with an encroaching piano line, before being joined by cymbals and drones in an ecstatic, if at times tempestuous, crescendo, breaking down into more disjointed interactions that contrast tidal sounds with cymbal washes. Ondes sismiques brings the drums to the fore, with processed, dulled rhythms and kinetic snares, interspersed with what sounds like animal noises being stretched and prised apart.

The final track, Plaque antarctique de loin en loin acts as a short summarising coda to the album, again harking at ambient tones and atmospheres, and perhaps provides a neat sketch of the strength of Oscillations planétaires. This quality, in my eyes, is that the album successfully fuses electroacoustic approaches with a popular notion of ‘ambient music,’ to the extent of even using sounds that are recognisably akin to synth pads or patches. This is perhaps unusual in the ‘hard-boiled’ environment of academic electroacoustic, but it has the wonderful effect of making Oscillations planétaires feel incredibly accessible. Listeners who enjoy ambient music or 1970s synth works, but might run a mile from austere electroacoustic pieces, will find here a welcoming gateway that might encourage them to explore that austerity. This is not to suggest in any way that Dumas’ work is not rigorous or engaging; the temporal themes behind the release are engaged with, present sonically, and rooted with the use of field recordings; there is constant attention to detail, and repeated sounds and ideas give a true sense of coherency to the album. Oscillations planétaires offers a lot to the listener, on many different levels.

Oscillations planétaires offers a lot to the listener, on many different levels.

Review

Julian Cowley, The Wire, no. 433, March 1, 2020
Dumas manages to convey the interdependence of personal experience and shared environment with illuminating subtlety.

Review

Baze Djunkiii, nitestylez.de, February 10, 2020

Another fresh one released via Montréal’s Empreintes Digitales label is Oscillations planétaires, the first ever solo album by Chantal Dumas. Created as a commissioned work for German radio programme Deutschlandfunk Kultur we see Dumas tackle the topic of geology with this one, especially the topic of geologic and tectonic movements and vibrations happening in different, mostly irregular, time scales to be more precise. Facing this task the result is an oftentimes sparse and spatial, partially also large scale dramatic journey through Dark Ambient and Ambient, at times surely influenced by Cosmic and (Neo)Cosmic as well as misty ethereal, outerworldy harmonic shifts and movements, subsurface crackles, grinding mass movements, subaquatic modular noises, haunting sweeps and more, all in their entirety sonically depicting the steady geologic processes having shaped the face of our planet for eons and still continually, yet slowly shaping its face up to this day. Our favorite cut: Marée crustale. File under: conceptualism in full effect.

Our favorite cut: Marée crustale. File under: conceptualism in full effect.

Review

Saul Bleaeck, Toneshift, December 18, 2019

Out of Montréal’s electroacoustic/acousmatic spearhead in sound art, empeintes DIGITALes, comes Chantal Dumas’ debut, Oscillations planétaires [Planetary Oscillations]. With a press kit that reads like a science textbook, the album explores some of Earth’s more intimate phenomena. Some of these oscillations are familiar: quakes and geysers. Other naturally occurring geo-drama such as Earth Tides and Geomagnetism have a more educational resonance. Since its radio premiere in July and concert premiere in December (both 2018), the commissioned work was revised in August of this year.

Each of the nine tracks accepts a title and conception of a geological process. Several address plate tectonics. Instead of an expected dominating sub bass and thundering drone, the frequency-blending often includes higher ranges. Formation de montagnes for example sounds reminiscent of a vintage sci-fi movie soundtrack. Marée crustale sweeps with delicious stereo panning as minimalist dynamics translate the briny shiftiness. Some of the work (which features Ida Toninato on baritone saxophone) is more easily conceptualized. There are obvious sonorous tidal and bubbly references.

Contributions come also from Daniel Áñez (piano on Dorsale médio-atlantique) and Claire Marchand who contributes flute on Geysers. Christian Olsen adds sparse, yet powerful drum kit performance on Dorsale médio-atlantique and Ondes sismiques. Fiona Ann Darbyshire contributed as scientific advisor. The predominant presence of electroacoustic effects, which define the album, are none more prevalent than during Magnétisme terrestre. Desired or not, the overall take-away affect of the album is a concrete eco-consciousness. There isn’t an ounce of proselytism herein. With subtleties and cool thematic structures Oscillations planétaires offers a grounds for legit conceptualization of ‘secrets of the deep,’ daftly demystified.

The predominant presence of electroacoustic effects, which define the album, are none more prevalent than during Magnétisme terrestre. Desired or not, the overall take-away affect of the album is a concrete eco-consciousness. There isn’t an ounce of proselytism herein.

Review

Linus Tossio, Freq, December 16, 2019

Commissioned by Deutschlandfunk Kultur in 2017 and broadcast first in July 2018, Oscillations planétaires evokes the larger geological cycles of planet Earth, from the eruptions of geysers and volcanoes to the motion of the tides and onwards to the formation of mountain ranges and the tectonic movements of the continental plates themselves.

Chantal Dumas uses both conventional instrumentation, synthesizers and other electronics over the course of just under an hour and nine movements to represent her impressions and elucidations of an entire planet-wide ecosystem in motion. So while there is much that directly connects to the sounds of land masses at their most active, much of Oscillations planétaires is necessarily impressionistic, the electronics wavering their metaphorical constructions in pulsating loops and babbling tones, their own low-frequency oscillations unable to run quite at geological rates.

The way in which the plates crumble and crash on Convection mantellique is particularly striking, where magma bubbles and boils below like the liquid musculature rippling beneath the subsurface, and the Geysers spurt and hubble under the huffing and skittering sounds of Claire Marchand ‘s flute, sputtering and rustling like eddies of superheated steam waiting to burst free. This it does, with ominous drama and a wetly resonant force, and the way which the soundscape is constructed is at once breathtaking and invigorating. Meanwhile, Formation de montagnes seems to build the high peaks from electronic modulations, its rippling beeps and rolling drones combining like the machinery that The Radiophonic Workshop might have used to represent Slartibartfast‘s fjordal constructions in the original broadcast of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Dumas lets the music sway and unfold, introducing searing banks of filtered waves and the occasional hint of a human chorale wafting on the swarming reverberations as formants drift lazily into the melded sonorities of Marée crustale, and the terminal sussurus of Plaque antarctique de loin en loin is plaintively mournful, marking the part of the planet’s surface undergoing perhaps its most shocking and profound moment of humanity-induced change.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Magnétisme terrestre offers the best opportunity for her to let the synthesizers do their electrical thing, tickling streams of oscillator burble and radio static hum weave in and out of a continuous magnetic storm that flickers like a fading fluorescent tube. Likewise, though the doomiest moment might well be expected on Ondes sismiques, instead Christian Olsen roughs up his drums, rolling thunderously as the ground shakes and a wailing warning sounds as the shape and face of the Earth’s foundations are rearranged.

Daniel Áñez (un)prepares and repurposes his piano while Olsen caresses and flutters at his drumkit to plumb the depths of the Dorsale médio-atlantique, the dark and relatively unexplored waters and its pigmentless denizens glimpsed in the fluid tapping of the keys and the counterpointed percussion. It feels suitably horizonless, up and down rendered at different scales, heaving with anticipation as much as hinting at the vastness lurking beyond visible distances, though any threat is perhaps illusory this far down in the uncaring deeps, waters rushing and lapping at the senses as an interface between land and sea is finally achieved.

As evocations of the grandeur of terrestrial existence goes, Oscillations planétaires is rather remarkably successful, its balance between simulation and abstract allusion finely judged. This is not so much an ambient soundtrack as it is a startling paean to a world that will nevertheless endure, no matter how much relatively puny humanity might have realised belatedly that it has effected an apparently unstoppable series of environmental catastrophes on its only home. But Earth will abide, even if its bipedal surface-dwellers may not do so for much longer in the style to which they had recently liked to become accustomed. The Oscillations planétaires will continue for another aeon or so; though entropy will inevitably claim the solar system too one day.

As evocations of the grandeur of terrestrial existence goes, Oscillations planétaires is rather remarkably successful, its balance between simulation and abstract allusion finely judged.

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