[…] The only other work of substance in this concert was Pierre Alexandre Tremblay’s Bucolic & Broken. And what substance! Here, and only here, was a true demonstration of the surround capabilities of HISS. But it wasn’t just the positioning of sounds, Tremblay’s choice of sources – ranging from a scratching pencil to a boiling kettle to birdsong to a tinkling piano gesture to a woman walking her dog – were superbly imaginative, and the way these were juxtaposed into a strange structural form was unconventional but completely convincing. It wasn’t in the usual sense acousmatic, Tremblay instead presenting these sounds as found sound objects arranged into a kind of spacialised collage. But what set the piece apart from almost everything else in this concert (and, perhaps, most concerts) was its demonstration of Tremblay’s very obvious playfulness and a palpable sense of wonder at the sounds he’s working with. For electronic music to be as accomplished as this while being so much fun is a rare combination. […]
[…] In Pierre Alexandre Tremblay’s electroacoustic Un fil rouge the electronics were for the most part uncannily present – which is to say that they felt like a tangible yet invisible additional performer on stage. They manifested most prominently in a recurring motif, extending the ensemble’s tutti accents into an accelerating (and occasionally decelerating) sequence of impacts. This motif recurred so often, in fact, that it became in essence a refrain, between which were a number of episodes providing a contrast to its impetus and momentum. Though they exhibited far less energy, these episodes were the most striking moments of the piece, Tremblay more prepared to let the material drift and linger, resulting in beautiful, dreamy sequences. Even when they were pushed along, though, this episodes remained distinct in the way they seemed more ragged, the result of playful spontaneity driven by an exciting bubbling sense of abandon. […]
The music on Cabinets de curiosité is just as colorful as the gorgeous artwork on the cover (painted by Shona Barr). Though each of the seven pieces explore different territory, the title of the composition that opens the disc, The Tincture of Physical Things, is a fitting unifier. MacDonald’s ‘cabinet of curiosities’ isn’t limited to just found objects; it includes any sounds that struck him as distinctive or significant, from the handmade glass instruments of Carrie Fertig used on Scintilla to the sounds of public spaces in Final Times, described by the composer as ‘cinema for the ears.’ MacDonald also pays tribute to Delia Derbyshire and early musique concrète on Psychedelian Streams, using more basic processing techniques on memorable objects from his childhood like Slinkies, wooden rulers, and wind chimes.
Troubles is Monique Jean’s third solo release, and its two pieces each boast an ambitious conceptual backing. The kinetic T.A.G. was inspired by rippling collective movements by crowds of people, an influence that is represented well by the composition’s litany of synthesized elements that progress with masterful pace and control. Jean’s sonic palette is dominated by the cold and artificial, with both actual recordings that are heavily processed as well as pure synthesis, but she commands this electronic orchestra with distinctly organic movements in mind. Out of Joint continues with that contrast, incorporating more recognizable sounds such as screams and the cawing of crows, but for an entirely different purpose; the piece is a sonic essay on the endurance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth throughout history.
Grains of Voice, originally released more than two decades ago, is still one of the most powerful and conceptually interesting pieces of this entire selection of music. Parmerud’s own written summary of the work is fascinating, detailing his efforts to record different human voices from all over the world (the total duration of recordings Parmerud made during his journey approaches 20 hours!) and create a piece that ventures into several ideas, or ‘islands,’ amidst a continuous flow of sound. The composer’s treatment of the voices results in dark, sonorous waves, grounded by recognizable elements — for me, the most notable of these was an appearance of Ginsberg’s Howl. The other concepts are no less enthralling, what with the auditory riddles of Les objet obscurs and the philosophical musings of Alias.
French improviser and composer eRikm is one of the few artists whose work has been a consistent element in my journey into experimental music. His collaborative CD with Jérôme Noetinger, What a Wonderful World, was one of the first Erstwhile releases I heard and introduced me to the field of electroacoustic improvisation, and Zygosis made me realize the power of the turntable as an instrument in an avant-garde context. Mistpouffers, consistent with Empreintes Digitales’ focus on acousmatic music, collects three pieces that were composed and arranged from 2013 to 2016. Draugalimur, commissioned by the French music office, incorporates several spoken word segments within its immersive ambient soundscapes, including excerpts from traditional Icelandic folk writings. Poudre and L’aire de la Moure 2 are both explorations into a very physical stereo space; the former’s treated recordings of firework explosions and the latter’s electric whirring and airplane engines are equally breathtaking.