Brace yourself for Jean’s violent and hopeless universe. Figures du temps is an evocatively titled triptych: un haut-parleur dans le désert (a loudspeaker in the desert), … et les déchets qu’on brule (… and the refuse we burn), and a farewell to S.O.S.. The music is not pretty. The first movement’s shuffling metallic sounds conjure ghost towns at an empire’s edge. Insidious razzing, slowly moving thunder akin to an airplane taking off, a possessed train careering into the horizon all hint at a desiccated Russolo and Varèse conferencing in the wasteland. In the central part, Joëlle Léandre’s contrabass saws under distorted poetry and detached commentary. The conclusion treats the scattered dots and dashes as fodder, their bleeping suggesting a malfunctioning life-support system, rather than a message from afar. Monstrous alarums and horns reinforce Russolo. This is one of the best ea pieces I’ve heard in a long time.
13’13 pour voix défigurées and Danse de l’enfant esseulée agitate in slightly more familiar ea territory where dreams play with distorted French speech. However Jean’s grim world keeps Surrealist clichés at bay. low memory #2 wraps flutes (Claire Marchand) with tape for a blistering experience. Similar compositions by Ferneyhough and Nono may be more complex or humane but are not as apocalyptic.