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Review

Antonis N Frangos, To Periodiko, February 21, 2021
Monday, February 22, 2021 Press

Éclats: κύκλος εργασιών ένθα ακουστικά όργανα και ηχητική σύνθεση σχετίζονται πρωτότυπα. Αναφορά κάνουμε στην δουλειά του Καναδού μουσικού και πολυθεματικού καλλιτέχνη Pierre-Luc Lecours που μελετάει τις σχέσεις μεταξύ φόρμας, περιεχόμενου και format, με επιρροές από τα ρεύματα της οργανικής και της σύγχρονης ηλεκτροακουστικής πειραματικής μουσικής. Το ηχητικό μέρος κάθε κομματιού εμπνέεται από το χρώμα με το οποίο έχει ονομαστεί (κόκκινο, μαύρο, άσπρο και μωβ). Ακολουθώντας την σχολή των Αυτοματοποιητών (Automatist) ζωγράφων, ο Lecours προσθέτει στην αρχή όλους τους ήχους ανάκατα για να ανακαλύψει σιγά- σιγά τις μεταξύ τους συνάψεις. Το εσωτερικό του πιάνου προσφέρει πλείστες όσες πηγές ενέργειας με τα διάφορα μέρη να κατακλύζονται διαδοχικά από χαμηλές και υψηλές εντάσεις.

Following in the footsteps of the Automatist school of painters, Lecours adds all the sounds to the mix at the beginning to slowly discover the synapses between them.

Review

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.

Recensione

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.

Review

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.

Kritiek

Ben Taffijn, Nieuwe Noten, January 31, 2021
Monday, February 1, 2021 Press

Twintig jaar bracht de uit Nieuw Zeealand afkomstige componist Denis Smalley geen nieuw werk uit, zijn laatste album, Sources / scènes, verscheen in 2000 bij Empreintes DIGITALes, nu gevolgd door twee albums kort nar elkaar. Portail verscheen in december vorig jaar, Vues spectrales komt in februari uit. Het werk van Smalley is vergelijkbaar met dat van Vande Gorne, die hier gisteren voorbij kwam, in de zin dat we ook zijn werk scharen onder de elektro-akoestische muziek.

Smalley studeerde aan de University of Canterbury in zijn vaderland en behaalde daar een diploma als organist om aansluitend compositie te studeren aan de Victoria University of Wellington. In 1971 kon hij met een beurs naar Parijs, studeerde daar compositie bij Olivier Messiaen en volgde tegelijkertijd de cursus elektro-akoestische muziek bij de inmiddels vermaarde Groupe de recherches musicales (Ina-GRM). Aansluitend verhuisde Smalley naar Londen waar hij zijn DPhil in compositie behaalde aan de University of York. Het zou allereerst resulteren in een carrière als professor, onder andere op het Department of Music aan de City University in London en pas daarnaast aan die van componist, het verklaart Smalleys relatief kleine œuvre.

Een belangrijk kenmerk van veel elektro-akoestische muziek, ook Vande Gorne werkt daar veelvuldig mee, is het werken met meerdere kanalen en dus ook met de plaatsing van luidsprekers door de ruimte. Iets wat op een Cd helaas niet hoorbaar is, maar live vaak een overweldigend effect scoort, de muziek komt immers van alle kanten. Wonderlijk eigenlijk dat deze muziek desondanks zo weinig live wordt uitgevoerd. Het zou een compositie als de driedelige Fabrezan Preludes, te vinden op Portail, waarbij Smalley het eerste deel baseerde op de piano prelude La Cathédrale engloutie van Claude Debussy, zeker ten goede komen. De spookachtige klanknevels zouden dan letterlijk door de ruimte zweven.

Sommeil de Rameau, een hommage aan de Franse barokcomponist, is volgens Smalley “a contemplative journey based around recurring refrain materials, contrasted with diversions into a series of episodes that lengthen as the piece progresses.” Aan dit stuk hoor je overigens ook goed Smalleys achtergrond als organist terug. Opvallend aan de muziek van Smalley in de laatste twee decennia is de klankbenadering, ritme en melodie spelen totaal geen rol, harmonie des te meer. Hij blijkt een meester in het neerzetten van sfeervolle geluidssculpturen. De liefhebbers van de betere ambient moeten deze albums beslist beluisteren. Ook Spectral Lands, Resounding’ en Ringing Down the Sun, te vinden op Vues spectrales vallen hieronder. Het laatste stuk ontstond in Denemarken en verwijst naar de traditie om de klokken te luiden aan het einde van de werkdag (ringer solen ned in het Deens). Smalley hierover: “This idea seemed metaphorically to coincide with my attitudes towards the sounds, contours and spaces I was immersed in, and it steered the direction of the piece.”

Door het toevoegen van twee oudere stukken aan de albums, het uit 1978 stammende The Pulses of Time en het in 1982 gecomponeerde Vortex is goed de ontwikkeling te horen die Smalley doormaakte. In The Pulses of Time werkt Smalley met pulses en percussieve klanken en ook in Vortex zit beduidend meer dynamiek dan in de hierboven genoemde stukken. Het maakt deze man en zijn muziek des te boeiender.

… a master in creating atmospheric sound sculptures.