Review

Jeremy Keens, Ampersand Etcetera, no. 2001_20, December 1, 2001

Normandeau’s album is less punctuated, somewhat academic in origin, and yet more lyrical: the first two tracks use mono-sources (voice, flute) while the third is an “exercise”. The opening Malina is based solely on shakuhachi as played by Claire Marchand, and presents the sound largely uncompromised - some stretched to drones, some editing - but presented in is captivating simplicity.

With Erinyes Normandeau uses the voice as his instrument: taking recitation from a production of Sophocles’ Electra for which he composed the music, he uses a treatment known as “freezing” to extract voice sounds. He has then orchestrated and structured them into a dramatic piece. Shifting between tonal stretched voices and short looped fragments, chants and ululations, rapid, slow and fragmentary passages, he has created a percussive musical piece that draws you in and holds you - changing pace and tone subtly, without unnecessary underlining, ending with an extended strangled cry. It reminded me somewhat of parts of Roger Doyle’s Babel.

Clair de terre combines electroacoustic and cinema - each of its 12 parts represents a cinematographic technique (“Narrow frame” “Rhythmic editing”) and relates it to a musical technique. After a spacey Overture (Ouverture) - the piece was stimulated by the famous photo of the earth from space - with a launch, swirling tones and beats, computer squiggles and blips; each part is structured as a “soundspace, an object’s sound, the sound of a musical instrument, and vocal onomatopoeias“ (Erinyes is part of the onomatopoeia series). The parts are not presented sequentially, however, but combined in short and subtle pieces, for example, the shakuhachi plays its tones over chattering base in Primary and secondary colours (Couleurs primaires et secondaires), a train runs through Camera mobility (Mobilité des plans), a squeaking door, electric guitar chords and so on, concluding with Wide frame (open space) (Cadre large (espace ouvert)) where pipes lead a melody before some percussive punctuating finales. Each of these movements is a marvellous miniature of about 3 minutes duration, based on excellent choice of sound sources, that combine to create a dense and complex work. At times the links are obvious (the cutting in Rhythmic editing (Montage rythmique), the sound palette in Primary colours (Couleurs ternaires), Dazzling’s (Clarté (éblouissement)) fireworks) others take more consideration - but it develops into something well beyond an academic exercise. A fascinating conclusion to a very approachable album.

Each of these movements is a marvellous miniature […] that combine to create a dense and complex work.

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