Oscillations planétaires

Chantal Dumas

… an exciting prospect, and one which I’m happy to report broadly lived up to expectations. Tempo, RU

… here she greatly broadens her range to something fascinating… Neural, Italie

Prix Opus 2019-20: Album de l’année — Finaliste


CD (IMED 19163)

  • Étiquette: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 19163
  • 2019
  • UCC 771028216321
  • Durée totale: 49:21
  • OGpak
  • 125 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
  • 50 g

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Richard Barrett, Tempo, no 75:295, 17 décembre 2020
… an exciting prospect, and one which I’m happy to report broadly lived up to expectations.
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Aurelio Cianciotta, Neural, 21 octobre 2020

Oscillations planétaires is the first solo album by Chantal Dumas, referencing geological phenomena and processes. Dumas seems to suggest that field recording and electroacoustic sound might have a strong correspondence with cosmic activities. The release is from Empreintes Digitales, a Montréal based label, which the German radio show Deutschlandfunk Kultur designated for this production. Dumas’ focus is mostly addressed towards geological and tectonic movements and vibrations happening on different time scales, physical events that are irregular, ethereal and subterranean. The album offers a meticulous analysis of these sounds, and highlights some of the hidden phenomena of such events. Only a limited number of these emissions are actually known, such as earthquakes and geysers. Other audio recordings are more immaterial, not exactly recognizable, and follow a series of associations that are aesthetically meaningful and outside the typical approach of the documentary form. Crackles, liquid modular recordings, heavy movements of physical masses, memories of vintage space-age are all elements of the album. Hisses, beats, minimalist and synthetic melodies: this is the sonic background Dumas plays, and she is very good at integrating the sounds with suggestion, the audio recordings with some bizarre treatments. The sonic landscape here is definitely unconventional, even if not so unusual in this musical scene, but the peculiar element is a highly controlled aesthetic result, a vibrant musicality full of low frequency oscillations, ripples and echoes, beating breaks and airy resonances. The whole ecosystem of the planet in movement is evoked here, the way the tectonic plates get in touch, or move away, the seething of magma and the underlying bubbles, the movement of the sea and the electricity the mountains hold at certain heights. Time, space, earth, listening: these themes are definitely not new for Dumas, but here she greatly broadens her range to something fascinating but difficult to capture.

… here she greatly broadens her range to something fascinating…


RNE3: Atmósfera, 11 octobre 2020

Oscillations planétaires es el primer álbum en solitario de la artista sonora afincada en Montréal Chantal Dumas con Empreintes DIGITALes, un sello creado en 1990, considerado uno de los sellos líder mundial en electroacústica y acústica.

Oscillations planétaires evoca a la geología. En todas las capas que lo componen, desde su núcleo hasta su superficie, el Planeta Tierra está habitado por movimientos ondulantes de escalas temporales extremadamente variadas. Algunos están inscritos en un marco de tiempo geológico, mientras que otros siguen un ciclo diario. Este conjunto oscilatorio contribuye a los mecanismos que gobiernan la dinámica de la Tierra.

En este trabajo se referencian diferentes fenómenos como lo terremotos que se cuentan entre 800.00 y 1.000.00 cada año en todo el mundo. La mayoría de estos temblores son demasiado débiles para sentirse u ocurrir en áreas deshabitadas.

O las placas tectónicas de la placa antártica que se mueven entre sí, fenómeno al que hace referencia el tema que escuchamos ahora. La placa antártica se mueve lentamente a una velocidad de unos pocos milímetros a dos centímetros por año, dependiendo de sus zonas de contacto con la docena de placas y microplacas enganchadas a su perímetro.

Les Oscillations planétaires évoquent la géologie. Dans toutes les couches qui la composent, du noyau à la surface, la planète Terre est habitée par des mouvements ondulatoires d’échelles de temps extrêmement variées.


Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, 14 juin 2020

Debut solo release by the Montréal composer and sound artist Chantal Dumas is Oscillations planétaires, and it turns out to be electroacoustic music themed on various geological phenomena of planet earth. On her annotations, Dumas discourses with a certain amount of authority as she sets out brief encyclopedia entries regarding earthquakes, the shifting of tectonic plates, the formation of mountain ranges, and geysers, as well less tangible things like seismic waves and the magnetic field of the earth. The music, structured in nine episodes across a 49:21 symphony, is intended to “evoke geology”. I’ve long thought this to be a popular trope in the field of electroacoustic composition, for instance parts of Parmegiani’s La création du monde from 1986, or Tremblement de terre trés doux which François Bayle composed in 1978 (although the latter might be more of a simple landscape narrative than a journey to the centre of the earth). Dumas certainly succeeds in conveying the sense of the earth groaning to itself as it stretches its body in preparation for another day, and although the music is largely very abstract, it also feels generally rather prosaic and descriptive, with none of the imaginative leaps that Parmegiani brought to the task. However, it’s much more eventful and packed with more volume than some of the understated pieces we normally get from this Canadian label.

Dumas certainly succeeds in conveying the sense of the earth groaning to itself…


Martin P, Musique Machine, 11 mai 2020

This is the first solo album from Chantal Dumas, released on empreintes DIGITALes, a Montréal label ‘widely considered as the world leader in electroacoustics / acousmatics’ — though I’ll admit that it’s not a name known to me. Oscillations planétaires consists of nine electroacoustic pieces built around the interesting premise that the Earth contains ‘undulatory motions of extremely varied temporal scales,’ contrasting, for example, imperceivable geological shifts with the daily movements of tides. This is an interesting, provocative idea but ultimately these things stand or fall, for me, on the quality of the sounds attached; Dumas does not disappoint.

In the spirit of the ‘temporal scales’ I mentioned, the first track, Tremblements de terre; Plaque antarctique; Subduction; Fosse océanique, begins with wind-like sounds and low end judders, before seismic reverberations erupt cavernously. Amidst the more ‘traditional’ electroacoustic sounds, it’s notable that a ambient-esque patch flickers in and out of the piece, before ending with cascading downward shimmers. The following track is somewhat of a reversal of the first, with long ascending drones; as Convection mantellique progresses it almost sounds like a processed recording of a warehouse, with circling vehicles, alarm sounds, and general hubbub, all laid on an eerie droning underbelly. Geysers begins with sea sounds, complete with something that sounds like seagulls, though all processed and spatially disrupted; this environment is then punctured by attacking percussive sounds, and what might be whale breath, indeed the track draws attention to the comparable cadences of breath and tide. From whales we turn to the insect chirruping of the fourth piece, which builds into a dense, expansive drone that is reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream and their ilk — complete with a suitable synth solo from Dumas. Whilst Marée crustale returns to the sea, with the sound of waves (also interrupted by electro thuds, as with Geysers) building into an almost orchestral lushness from more ambient pads; Magnétisme terrestre presents more recognisably electroacoustic fare, with a constantly shifting array of electronic sounds showing Dumas’ careful attention to detail — in particular some exquisite moments that sound like tape saturation, spilling and decaying. The next two pieces, Dorsale médio-atlantique and Ondes sismiques,’ jolt the listener. Although examination of the press release reveals that Oscillations planétaires was conceived with help from a small group of acoustic musicians, utilising baritone saxophone, flute, piano, and drums, it is with the opening of Dorsale médio-atlantique that we first hear any recognisable contributions from them — even though the saxophone and flute had been previously deployed. Thus the piece begins with an encroaching piano line, before being joined by cymbals and drones in an ecstatic, if at times tempestuous, crescendo, breaking down into more disjointed interactions that contrast tidal sounds with cymbal washes. Ondes sismiques brings the drums to the fore, with processed, dulled rhythms and kinetic snares, interspersed with what sounds like animal noises being stretched and prised apart.

The final track, Plaque antarctique de loin en loin acts as a short summarising coda to the album, again harking at ambient tones and atmospheres, and perhaps provides a neat sketch of the strength of Oscillations planétaires. This quality, in my eyes, is that the album successfully fuses electroacoustic approaches with a popular notion of ‘ambient music,’ to the extent of even using sounds that are recognisably akin to synth pads or patches. This is perhaps unusual in the ‘hard-boiled’ environment of academic electroacoustic, but it has the wonderful effect of making Oscillations planétaires feel incredibly accessible. Listeners who enjoy ambient music or 1970s synth works, but might run a mile from austere electroacoustic pieces, will find here a welcoming gateway that might encourage them to explore that austerity. This is not to suggest in any way that Dumas’ work is not rigorous or engaging; the temporal themes behind the release are engaged with, present sonically, and rooted with the use of field recordings; there is constant attention to detail, and repeated sounds and ideas give a true sense of coherency to the album. Oscillations planétaires offers a lot to the listener, on many different levels.

Oscillations planétaires offers a lot to the listener, on many different levels.

Modern Composition

Julian Cowley, The Wire, no 433, 1 mars 2020
Dumas manages to convey the interdependence of personal experience and shared environment with illuminating subtlety.


Baze Djunkiii, nitestylez.de, 10 février 2020

Another fresh one released via Montréal’s Empreintes Digitales label is Oscillations planétaires, the first ever solo album by Chantal Dumas. Created as a commissioned work for German radio programme Deutschlandfunk Kultur we see Dumas tackle the topic of geology with this one, especially the topic of geologic and tectonic movements and vibrations happening in different, mostly irregular, time scales to be more precise. Facing this task the result is an oftentimes sparse and spatial, partially also large scale dramatic journey through Dark Ambient and Ambient, at times surely influenced by Cosmic and (Neo)Cosmic as well as misty ethereal, outerworldy harmonic shifts and movements, subsurface crackles, grinding mass movements, subaquatic modular noises, haunting sweeps and more, all in their entirety sonically depicting the steady geologic processes having shaped the face of our planet for eons and still continually, yet slowly shaping its face up to this day. Our favorite cut: Marée crustale. File under: conceptualism in full effect.

Our favorite cut: Marée crustale. File under: conceptualism in full effect.


Saul Bleaeck, Toneshift, 18 décembre 2019

Out of Montréal’s electroacoustic / acousmatic spearhead in sound art, empeintes DIGITALes, comes Chantal Dumas’ debut, Oscillations planétaires [Planetary Oscillations]. With a press kit that reads like a science textbook, the album explores some of Earth’s more intimate phenomena. Some of these oscillations are familiar: quakes and geysers. Other naturally occurring geo-drama such as Earth Tides and Geomagnetism have a more educational resonance. Since its radio premiere in July and concert premiere in December (both 2018), the commissioned work was revised in August of this year.

Each of the nine tracks accepts a title and conception of a geological process. Several address plate tectonics. Instead of an expected dominating sub bass and thundering drone, the frequency-blending often includes higher ranges. Formation de montagnes for example sounds reminiscent of a vintage sci-fi movie soundtrack. Marée crustale sweeps with delicious stereo panning as minimalist dynamics translate the briny shiftiness. Some of the work (which features Ida Toninato on baritone saxophone) is more easily conceptualized. There are obvious sonorous tidal and bubbly references.

Contributions come also from Daniel Áñez (piano on Dorsale médio-atlantique) and Claire Marchand who contributes flute on Geysers. Christian Olsen adds sparse, yet powerful drum kit performance on Dorsale médio-atlantique and Ondes sismiques. Fiona Ann Darbyshire contributed as scientific advisor. The predominant presence of electroacoustic effects, which define the album, are none more prevalent than during Magnétisme terrestre. Desired or not, the overall take-away affect of the album is a concrete eco-consciousness. There isn’t an ounce of proselytism herein. With subtleties and cool thematic structures Oscillations planétaires offers a grounds for legit conceptualization of ‘secrets of the deep,’ daftly demystified.

The predominant presence of electroacoustic effects, which define the album, are none more prevalent than during Magnétisme terrestre. Desired or not, the overall take-away affect of the album is a concrete eco-consciousness. There isn’t an ounce of proselytism herein.


Linus Tossio, Freq, 16 décembre 2019

Commissioned by Deutschlandfunk Kultur in 2017 and broadcast first in July 2018, Oscillations planétaires evokes the larger geological cycles of planet Earth, from the eruptions of geysers and volcanoes to the motion of the tides and onwards to the formation of mountain ranges and the tectonic movements of the continental plates themselves.

Chantal Dumas uses both conventional instrumentation, synthesizers and other electronics over the course of just under an hour and nine movements to represent her impressions and elucidations of an entire planet-wide ecosystem in motion. So while there is much that directly connects to the sounds of land masses at their most active, much of Oscillations planétaires is necessarily impressionistic, the electronics wavering their metaphorical constructions in pulsating loops and babbling tones, their own low-frequency oscillations unable to run quite at geological rates.

The way in which the plates crumble and crash on Convection mantellique is particularly striking, where magma bubbles and boils below like the liquid musculature rippling beneath the subsurface, and the Geysers spurt and hubble under the huffing and skittering sounds of Claire Marchand’s flute, sputtering and rustling like eddies of superheated steam waiting to burst free. This it does, with ominous drama and a wetly resonant force, and the way which the soundscape is constructed is at once breathtaking and invigorating. Meanwhile, Formation de montagnes seems to build the high peaks from electronic modulations, its rippling beeps and rolling drones combining like the machinery that The Radiophonic Workshop might have used to represent Slartibartfast‘s fjordal constructions in the original broadcast of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Dumas lets the music sway and unfold, introducing searing banks of filtered waves and the occasional hint of a human chorale wafting on the swarming reverberations as formants drift lazily into the melded sonorities of Marée crustale, and the terminal sussurus of Plaque antarctique de loin en loin is plaintively mournful, marking the part of the planet’s surface undergoing perhaps its most shocking and profound moment of humanity-induced change.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Magnétisme terrestre offers the best opportunity for her to let the synthesizers do their electrical thing, tickling streams of oscillator burble and radio static hum weave in and out of a continuous magnetic storm that flickers like a fading fluorescent tube. Likewise, though the doomiest moment might well be expected on Ondes sismiques, instead Christian Olsen roughs up his drums, rolling thunderously as the ground shakes and a wailing warning sounds as the shape and face of the Earth’s foundations are rearranged.

Daniel Áñez (un)prepares and repurposes his piano while Olsen caresses and flutters at his drumkit to plumb the depths of the Dorsale médio-atlantique, the dark and relatively unexplored waters and its pigmentless denizens glimpsed in the fluid tapping of the keys and the counterpointed percussion. It feels suitably horizonless, up and down rendered at different scales, heaving with anticipation as much as hinting at the vastness lurking beyond visible distances, though any threat is perhaps illusory this far down in the uncaring deeps, waters rushing and lapping at the senses as an interface between land and sea is finally achieved.

As evocations of the grandeur of terrestrial existence goes, Oscillations planétaires is rather remarkably successful, its balance between simulation and abstract allusion finely judged. This is not so much an ambient soundtrack as it is a startling paean to a world that will nevertheless endure, no matter how much relatively puny humanity might have realised belatedly that it has effected an apparently unstoppable series of environmental catastrophes on its only home. But Earth will abide, even if its bipedal surface-dwellers may not do so for much longer in the style to which they had recently liked to become accustomed. The Oscillations planétaires will continue for another aeon or so; though entropy will inevitably claim the solar system too one day.

As evocations of the grandeur of terrestrial existence goes, Oscillations planétaires is rather remarkably successful, its balance between simulation and abstract allusion finely judged.