MM, Vital, no. 163, February 22, 1999

The most recent catalogue issued by empreintes DIGITALes (yours for the asking, by the way) contains a quotation by one George Nicholson, “… we might say that certain sonic landscapes, thought, colours, certain states and manifestations of the soul would remain forever muted, if electroacoustics had not sprung forth from nowhere — unexpected and inevitable.” This is a sentiment I cannot help but agree with wholeheartedly. Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some of the newest music in this genre and have finally had the chance to listen to Alibi, which exemplifies the above quotation most admirably. Compared to most electroacoustic music I’ve heard, the compositions on this CD struck me as being quite sinister and it includes some of the strangest sounds I’ve encountered. Mr. Tremblay studied with all the right people and feels himself to be firmly rooted in the spirit of baroque, which he, together with write Alejo Carpentier, feels to be not so much a historic style, but rather a constant of the spirit. The first (and my favourite) track on Alibi is titled Hérésie ou les bas-reliefs du dogme and concerns itself with the manner in which the heart of man has become “a cave of bandits” shaped by the reigning collective moral ideal, and which ensures his survival amongst great infamies. It is filled with quotes which illustrate the crimes and cruelties committed by man in the name of God. So it is that we hear money-hungry cable preachers, forked tongued papal posturing, Saddam Hussein as a Madman Insane all of which demonstrate the “shift from idealism to materialism, from heart to reason”. Gregorian chants and Tibetan mantras similarly evolve from the pure to the impure as they slide down a slope from the path of fearlessness into the valley of the shadow of distortion.

Demanding voices lunge out brandishing guilt — where there is no guilt, then guilt will be provided. The tweet and twitter of bat-like demons of the dark fly around in the threatening space, where disease and dis-ease are free to roam and prey on the weak and frail. Definitely not a piece to be listened to in the dark. The following track flows out of this with well-lubricated ease, and I suppose there is a link to be found. It’s called Oaristys and it’s theme is eroticism. Still, it remains quite a foreboding terrain and even the laughter included in it later on does little to alleviate the looming shapes at the edge. Great voice treatments! More darkness in L’Intrus au chapeau de spleen — the elusive unconscious which seeks entry through the crumbling fortress constructed around memory, sometimes persuasive as a gentle lover, sometimes as wild as a bull — “the keeper of our monsters…” Jeu d’ondes is the shortest composition on this CD and it is constructed from recordings of the different sounds found on a sailboat — rustling sail, creaking cables, clattering winches — combined with quotes from radio broadcasts. Of the four empreintes DIGITALes CDs I’ve written about in the last four editions of Vital, I found this the most confrontational, the hardest to assimilate and perhaps, in the end, the CD which contains the ‘deepest’ compositions.

… includes some of the strangest sounds I’ve encountered.