electrocd

Review

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, December 14, 2022

Another composer influenced by poetry is Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, explicitly so on Quatre poèmes, where he declares his intention to put together an album that he considers to be “a volume of poetry”, with four not-unrelated compositions, all of them exhibiting an allusive approach to the chosen themes.

Apparently he lives somewhere in the north of England now, if his statement about Bucolic & Broken is anything to go by; in this imaginative 12:32 minute collage of recordings, he evokes a portrait of the United Kingdom which is somewhat less than flattering, but realistic nonetheless. He sees our ancient worn-out traditions reflected everywhere, particularly in our buildings and furnishings, and is faintly amazed that society is still holding together in this crumbling, post-Brexit environment. Two other pieces here are no less astringent in their observations, and seem more engaged with general problems of communication and information. nureinwortgenügtnicht1 (which translates as asinglewordisnotenough1) laments the way that it’s impossible to translate any text accurately, hence the possibility of meaning and making yourself understood seems ever more remote. These ideas have been around since the time of Ferdinand de Saussure, and led to all kinds of doubt-fuelled crises in the 20th century. Musically, Tremblay makes his observations with ingenuity and economy, starting out with what sounds like an approximation of a typewriter driven mad by frustration, and leading into darker long-form tones of bleak uncertainty.

There’s also Newsfeed, a very good oblique commentary on the problem of data-saturation which, pretty much, the world has been facing since the invention of the internet and the spread of mobile phones, social media, and other outlets. Tremblay doesn’t try to wish it all away (as I personally feel like doing), and freely owns that he is “addicted to information”, but he does pinpoint the issue of constant updates to everything, making it impossible for any of us to keep up or even to know what is true in a world full of false news, gossip, and trivia. For 24:15 minutes, we have audio saturation in the form of repetitions and musical overload; but it’s carefully controlled, and far from being a mess of chaotic noise, this is a genuine work of art, creating a metaphor for the composer’s own personal echo-chamber of the mind, depicting not only the process of data saturation but also showing something of the ways in which we attempt to shape that information, filter it and process it. It sounds like it’s a struggle, perhaps going against human nature and the way that the brain really ought to be working, and it’s possible we won’t win this battle against the computer.

It’s not often that we get trenchant, critical editorialising of this sort surfacing in this genre of music, and I would welcome more of this “personal essay” style in electro-acoustic composition. Full marks to Mr Tremblay for this excellent release.

Full marks to Mr Tremblay for this excellent release.