Montréal-based composer Monique Jean’s take on electroacoustic music has been described as “engaging a present that happens now.” Credit François Couture with that sharply written phrase. Indeed, there is an abrasiveness to her work that feels urgent and forceful. Her new release Troubles features two vivid examples.
The first is T.A.G. The title is an acronym for trottoir, asphalte, goudron, which translate as sidewalk, asphalt, tar. The 2013 composition is a study of demonstrators and the dynamics of crowds.
Unlike Amethyst Seer’s excellent 2017 work Protest, this doesn’t feature an actual recording of a demo. Instead, Jean interprets the subject matter. In doing so, she delivers a more accessible piece of music.
All the tension and fluidity of motion you’d expect from a protest-themed work is there. But its relatively vague reference points encourage appreciation of the work on a more emotional level. This is a consequential, timely effort — one that resonates even more deeply four years after its composition.
The second half of the album features Jean’s 2009/2011 piece Out of Joint. In the album’s notes, she describes it as “an essay in sound hybridization on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the various silver screen adaptations, stagings and rewrites it inspired through time.”
Again, her decision to avoid a literal interpretation serves to broaden the work’s appeal. Yes it is about Macbeth. But it also works as a piece about iterations or interpretations.
Big themes. But they’re all within Jean’s reach. Her work has an outsized quality that — with a bit of promotion — could have influence beyond the confines of electroacoustic fandom.