Review

Darren Bergstein, e/i magazine, no. 2, September 1, 2003

Besides being home to the IRCAM thinktank and pioneers Luc Ferrari and Pierre Schaeffer, France’s place in the history of electroacoustic music and musique concrète is long-deserved. The country’s wonderful Metamkine label continues to release works by artists mining a territory of seemingly limitless aural vistas. Tracking the diversity of their artists, four recent recordings in the label’s series of 20-minute, 3" CDs (tucked away in sharply designed, signature minisleeves) all appear as fragile little artworks inside and out. Michele Bokanowski’s L’étoile absinthe telegraphs sounds mock-symphonic and synthetic, a chamber orchestra lost in a perilous forest of preening strings and stoic electronic hushes, while underfoot the scent of something vaguely sinister beckons. Quite episodic despite it’s length, it effectively broaches an impressive personal dialogue with the listener. Over the course of Dix-sept minutes, Michel Chion deleteriously excavates the musique right out of its concrete, isolating the ear in a toybox of half-heard chorales, defective thermostats, and wristwatch dementia. Sounds are deliberately placed in a stereoheld that makes full use of their color spectrum, yet Chion misplaces his narrative in the execution, yielding phantasmagoric ‘sound-art’ that suffers from incidentalism. No such problem with Zbigniew Karkowski, noisenik and agent provocateur. Consciously Unconscious. Unconsciously Conscious prefers you bask in the pulse of transformer electricity, a series of galvanic hums whose amperage is further rubbed, tweaked and massaged into drones of glorious wow and flutter. Invasive, and in a masterful way. Illustrated amply enough on Train de nuit, collagist Lionel Marchetti moves effortlessly between parallel worlds of experimentation and ephemera. At first, it appears he has stumbled upon a long-lost soundtrack to a François Truffaut film, the scampering of petite footsteps on cobblestones echoing the bleak vision of 400 Blows. Such a fertile beginning unfortunately gives way to abstract constructivism that, while superficially interesting, fails to gel into an engaging whole. On both geographic and musical fronts, history has demonstrated that reunification is often a good thing.

… wonderful Metamkine label continues to release works by artists mining a territory of seemingly limitless aural vistas.

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