Review

Graeme Rowland, Brainwashed, June 2, 2002

What can you say about 76-year old composer Francis Dhomont? You could say he’s been given lots of prizes for his noises. You could say he talks a good acousmatic game theory. You could say he wears an eyepatch over his right eye. He first grabbed my attention with his Frankenstein Symphony on Asphodel, a plunderphonic acousmatic journey on which he skillfully cut up and stitched together various excerpts from works by his French Canadian contemporaries. He now tips his hat to perhaps his biggest inspiration. This sound cycle is a fiftieth anniversary homage to musique concrète pioneer Pierre Schaeffer, specifically the first movement of his Étude aux objets, from which Dhomont has sourced his raw materials. There are many furtive similarities to the Schaeffer original, but Dhomont stretches the journey out almost twice as long and eschews Schaeffer’s violent tape splice edits, focusing and magnifying curiously questioning speaker panning whirls into successive new smoothed out seascapes. In the opening funeral march, Objets retrouvés, the sounds seem to be asking themselves what they are, curious to find themselves hanging around their own echoes. Dhomont breathes new life into them and gives them celebratory purpose. The second cycle AvatArsSon paints in the sky from a more varied and clattering palette. Sounds loom into the foreground, shimmer and mutate. Latterly choral vox limbo over glugging mystery spools. Bells ring out across the city full of gleeful honking taxis, soon washed away by tidal waves. This is the most cinematic of the four cycles, in that more untransmuted sound sources are apparent than in relatively abstracted sequences elsewhere. The third cycle Novars was the first to be completed and is the hub around which the others rotate, but since it is sequenced after Objets retrouvés despite being completed seven years earlier, it seems like an extended version thereof. Phonurgie hones and magnifies elements from the previous cycles casting long late summer evening shadows and deep pool reflections, folding mystery into myth. Latterly it seems as if several glass instrument orchestras are playing cut up fragments in reverse as they sink into the sea. A little recurring chuckle is a mirthful reminder of how much fun listening can be.

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