Editor’s Corner

David Olds, The WholeNote, no. 26:5, February 7, 2021
Monday, February 22, 2021 Press

I suppose the best place to start is with old friends. During my tenure as host and producer of Transfigured Night (1984-1991) at CKLN-FM, I became interested in the field of electronic music, to the extent of becoming a founding member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC). On a trip to Montréal in 1986, for a conference that led to the establishment of that national organization, I met and became friends with a number of movers and shakers in that rarified field, including Jean-François Denis, who went on to found the internationally renowned empreintes DIGITALes (electrocd.com). At time of writing, the Montréal-based label has 171 releases featuring the most distinguished practitioners of electroacoustics, acousmatics and musique concrète from around the world. While at CKLN, I commissioned radiophonic works from a dozen composers, one of the most successful of which was Figures de la nuit / Faces of the Night by Francis Dhomont. Since the late 1940s working with magnetic wire recorders in Paris – one of the first exponents of what Pierre Henry would later call musique concrète – Dhomont has been a pioneer of electroacoustic composition, and has worked exclusively in fixed media (ie magnetic tape and its digital progeny) since the 1970s. From 1978 until 2004, Dhomont split his time between France and Québec, where he taught for 16 years at the Université de Montréal. I am pleased to see, as witnessed by the recent CD Images nomades (IMED 20167), that at the age of 94 Dhomont is still active in his studio in Avignon, France. This release includes three recent works – a particular favourite is Perpetuum mobile (Pluies fantômes) – plus a cycle of [9] shorter tributes to friends and colleagues such as composers Bernard Parmegiani and Jonty Harrison he calls Ami-versaires – composed between 2002 and 2020. This and the dozen or so discs of Dhomont’s music available from empreintes DIGITALes confirm him not only as a pioneer in the field, but also as a master of his craft.

… as a master of his craft.


Samuele Conficoni, Music Map, February 1, 2021
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 Press

Il primo album solista del compositore di Montréal Pierre-Luc Lecours è un viaggio dionisiaco in una galassia nascosta che possiamo toccare con mano attraverso cinque brani complessi, quattro dei quali fanno parte della suite che dà il titolo all’album. Éclats è stratificato e intrigante, seducente e vaporoso. In ciascuno dei pezzi, l’autore mette a nudo tutto il suo talento e tutte le sue pulsioni e pervade della sua natura ogni singola nota.

La bravura e la versatilità di Pierre-Luc Lecours si mostrano nella loro cristallina immediatezza in Éclats, opera ambiziosa e organica suddivisa in quattro atti, composta tra 2014 e 2020, a cui segue una composizione finale, Impacts discrets, risalente al 2014 e scritta in contemporanea, quindi, al primo atto di Éclats. Ci troviamo di fronte a un compositore straordinario, dal talento evidente e dalla spiccata originalità, che non teme di osare troppo, la cui espressività marchia col fuoco ogni angolo dei suoi pezzi. Diplomatosi in musica digitale e con un master in composizione completato a Montréal sotto la supervisione di Pierre Michaud, Lecours rispetta le aspettative e dà vita a un disco che non ha debolezze e che, nonostante sia ostico, può essere apprezzato anche da un ascoltatore qualunque.

Lecours si muove con sapienza e spontaneità all’interno di un universo elettronico e classico che spazia i più differenti stati d’animo e umori. È riflessione, meditazione, sincera dedizione nei confronti del sottobosco musicale che l’autore frequenta da sempre, che studia con applicazione e rigore evidenti. Le varie parti di Éclats — un album a tutti gli effetti ambient, sia nella lunga composizione che dà il titolo al disco, suddivisa in quattro atti, sia nel brano conclusivo — sono un vorticare cinematico di bagliori e oscurità, dei passaggi di senso (e di tempo) che incrociano spiriti difficili da fermare e osservare. È un insieme di onde che sembrano non fermarsi e seguire, instancabili, il movimento del mare.

Lecours ha tanti meriti: non va incontro alle mode, segue un progetto personale e avvincente e vive con febbrile entusiasmo le sue composizioni. E così siamo trasportati, su un vascello leggero, tra calure e tempeste, accartocciati con freschezza ai bordi dell’imbarcazione, lungo i colori dell’opera, che conducono, infine, al brano conclusivo, l’abbacinante Impacts discrets, che rappresenta lo spegnersi, lento e romantico, del fuoco brillante che ha percorso il progetto. Lecours ci regala quasi un’ora di musica inquieta e febbrile, che non si accontenta di esistere ma vuole anche resistere, come noi insieme a lei.

Lecours has many merits: he does not go along with fashions, he follows a personal and compelling project and lives his compositions with feverish enthusiasm.


Mike Eisenberg, Avant Music News, February 15, 2021
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 Press

Natasha Barrett paints with sound… but the color of her canvas is black.

After not hearing this wonderful release for several years, I recently went back and revisited much of her catalog (through headphones) and was amazed at the, lets call it 3-D’ness of this release, as well as the other empreintes DIGITALes release Bouteilles de Klein from 2010. The sense of multi-dimensionality in these recordings (and others not on this label) is at first curious, as in “wow, this is unusual” but then quickly graduates to utter fascination and childlike marvel at the sound tableau that is laid out in front, above, below and behind you.

I mean, this stuff is totally surreal! What’s interesting to me is, as much as Ms. Barrett seems to live and breathe technology, her sound sources are primarily natural and elemental. Reading some of the notes on her website/blog she’s not afraid to go out into the world to capture the environment as field recordings. Some of these excursions sound downright risky. The longest piece on this record, Viva la Selva! takes us on an 18-minute sonic trip through a Central American rain forest. Incorporeal / intangible sounds seem to approach the listener from all directions. Human sounds are sometimes substituted for animal sounds, and the distinction is often blurred. The rain forest at night sounds at once inviting, and at the same time menacing. The spatiality of it all is astounding.

Speaking of spatiality, this is a quality that turns up in most of her music. I opened this write-up by saying she paints on a black surface. I say this because the sensory perceptions that this listener gets while experiencing her music seems to come from some dark landscape and not from any particular direction in space. In the piece The Utility of Space, human voice and other indeterminate sounds appear to be materializing from a pitch-black velvet source, only to be momentarily illuminated to allow the brain to register that they are even there. My favorite piece on the album Red Snow has so many sonic easter eggs that delight the listener upon discovery it’s almost overkill. Between all the micro sounds that are spinning around the 3-dimensional sound stage and the more organic earthly sounds like footsteps in crunchy snow… the mind just struggles to keep up with it all.

The shorter pieces on this album are no less appealing. The opening 3 works form a trilogy entitled Three Fictions and each presents the listener to a different micro-climate or meteorological event. Upon these backdrops, the composer added a whispered female voice that imbues a phantasmagorical / mystical quality to the piece. The whispered voice takes shape out of nowhere with nothing concrete holding it in place… a whisp of nothingness that somehow forms itself upon the listener’s psyche, if only for a few seconds before disintegrating into something less than its molecular structure… forever.

This is music that does not reveal itself completely on the first, or for that matter the tenth listening. Instead, each visit back to these works is like listening to it fresh. New sounds that you swear you’ve never heard before appear out of nowhere. One can only relax and let it wash over you. If you are a fan of ambisonic or binaural recordings, recommending Natasha Barrett will be an easy sell. If you are a more seasoned Acousmatic listener but have never heard her, I would suggest running (not walking) to your favorite vendor and take the plunge. Careful headphone listening is strongly recommended. The composer makes ample use of deep, subsonic frequencies. Personally, from a guy who likes to listen to Acousmatic music at fairly high volumes, Barrett’s music doesn’t require this at all. In fact, as a word of caution, these deep (not bassy, but DEEP) sounds can really do a number on headphones or earbuds. Lower volume is in order here, and it in no way takes away from the enjoyment of the experience. Without headphones, a subwoofer will work wonders. Isostasie is a fantastic point of departure! I plan on doing a future write up of Bouteilles de Klein soon.

… I would suggest running (not walking) to your favorite vendor and take the plunge.


Stuart Bruce, Chain DLK, February 12, 2021
Monday, February 15, 2021 Press

Vues spectrales gathers together three of Denis Smalley’s multichannel works from between 2001 and 2011, converted to stereo. (It also bolts on one older work Vortex from 1982, more about which later on.)

Each of the formerly-multichannel works is a roughly 15-minute, ambience-driven, atmospheric construction that are dominated by great swathes of space and patience. Spectral Lands is, as the title suggests, something of a landscape portrait, with moderately natural-sounding rustlings akin to bird noises and wind through trees, but with more alien and ambiguous sonics grafted in to increase the complexity.

Ringing Down The Sun, by way of contrast, feels somewhat more alien. Low metallic rumbles open, hollow bottle-like distant melodies follow but at such a low level that you suspect you might be imagining them. There’s a tale being told here — not with excessive drama, but with a few more percussive and unexpected twists — and it’s gently sci-fi, but with a dose of introspective sorrow.

Resounding opens with a bell, then silence, before adopting a variety of other quite church-like tones of hammering and reverberation for something which manages to remain ambient and sparse yet have a dose of theatricality about it as well.

The older work Vortex is markedly different. While there are still periods of breathing space, it’s much busier and at times more chaotic, with a decidedly Radiophonic Workshop feel at times, very much reminiscent of the Doctor Who soundtrack work from around or just before 1982 when it was created. It’s curious, but without offering up a strong reason for it having been dug up, or attached to a series of more measured and more recent works with which it arguably doesn’t belong.

As usual, Empreintes Digitales has unearthed some intriguing pieces from the archive, and while there’s no revelations or masterworks in here, it’s certainly a collection of interesting textures.

… a collection of interesting textures.