Grains of Voice, originally released more than two decades ago, is still one of the most powerful and conceptually interesting pieces of this entire selection of music. Parmerud’s own written summary of the work is fascinating, detailing his efforts to record different human voices from all over the world (the total duration of recordings Parmerud made during his journey approaches 20 hours!) and create a piece that ventures into several ideas, or ‘islands,’ amidst a continuous flow of sound. The composer’s treatment of the voices results in dark, sonorous waves, grounded by recognizable elements — for me, the most notable of these was an appearance of Ginsberg’s Howl. The other concepts are no less enthralling, what with the auditory riddles of Les objet obscurs and the philosophical musings of Alias.
French improviser and composer eRikm is one of the few artists whose work has been a consistent element in my journey into experimental music. His collaborative CD with Jérôme Noetinger, What a Wonderful World, was one of the first Erstwhile releases I heard and introduced me to the field of electroacoustic improvisation, and Zygosis made me realize the power of the turntable as an instrument in an avant-garde context. Mistpouffers, consistent with Empreintes Digitales’ focus on acousmatic music, collects three pieces that were composed and arranged from 2013 to 2016. Draugalimur, commissioned by the French music office, incorporates several spoken word segments within its immersive ambient soundscapes, including excerpts from traditional Icelandic folk writings. Poudre and L’aire de la Moure 2 are both explorations into a very physical stereo space; the former’s treated recordings of firework explosions and the latter’s electric whirring and airplane engines are equally breathtaking.
The music on Cabinets de curiosité is just as colorful as the gorgeous artwork on the cover (painted by Shona Barr). Though each of the seven pieces explore different territory, the title of the composition that opens the disc, The Tincture of Physical Things, is a fitting unifier. MacDonald’s ‘cabinet of curiosities’ isn’t limited to just found objects; it includes any sounds that struck him as distinctive or significant, from the handmade glass instruments of Carrie Fertig used on Scintilla to the sounds of public spaces in Final Times, described by the composer as ‘cinema for the ears.’ MacDonald also pays tribute to Delia Derbyshire and early musique concrète on Psychedelian Streams, using more basic processing techniques on memorable objects from his childhood like Slinkies, wooden rulers, and wind chimes.
Troubles is Monique Jean’s third solo release, and its two pieces each boast an ambitious conceptual backing. The kinetic T.A.G. was inspired by rippling collective movements by crowds of people, an influence that is represented well by the composition’s litany of synthesized elements that progress with masterful pace and control. Jean’s sonic palette is dominated by the cold and artificial, with both actual recordings that are heavily processed as well as pure synthesis, but she commands this electronic orchestra with distinctly organic movements in mind. Out of Joint continues with that contrast, incorporating more recognizable sounds such as screams and the cawing of crows, but for an entirely different purpose; the piece is a sonic essay on the endurance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth throughout history.
Mistpouffers, appena uscita per Empreintes Digitales, è la raccolta di tre composizioni realizzate tra il 2014 e il 2016 dall’artista e improvvisatore francese eRikm. I tre pezzi durano quasi venti minuti ciascuno e sono, in qualche modo, collegati da una sorta di filo narrativo che crea un ideale legame al netto della tripartizione. Draugalimur si apre fra suoni rarefatti e tuoni sempre più forti, che segnalano l’approssimarsi di una tempesta, mentre l’elettronica di base scorre lieve e rarefatta. Suoni di passi e voci sussurrate, in un sottofondo temporalesco, suggeriscono un immaginario quasi cinematografico e un senso di pathos che permea tutto il brano, chiuso poi da una chitarra scordata e da qualche morbida nota di piano che pare stemperare la tensione. Poudre torna nella tempesta e poi vira verso fuochi artificiali, con annessi urla e applausi di approvazione da parte della folla, cambiando anche nettamente l’umore del disco. L’Aire de la moure 2 sembra riportare la calma, in quasi venti minuti di suoni più piatti, scheletriche conversazioni fra una voce maschile e una femminile e qualche sporadico suono naturale, soprattutto animalesco, che contribuisce a tenere viva l’idea di una narrazione cinematografica più che di un album musicale in sé. La forza di Mistpouffers sta proprio nella sua capacità di raccontare qualcosa che, evidentemente, non è neanche scritto e definito, alimentando l’immaginazione e permettendo interpretazioni soggettive.