On Taâlem

Lyophilized commentaries about a series of 3-inches by the French label who contends to Mystery Sea and Afe the leadership in a peculiar contest between the rare dark ambient/ethereal drones/field recordings imprints which still manage to publish something interesting every once in a while. Thanks to Jean-Marc for his patience in the long wait (whistling an old tune…).

HORCHATA VS. SIL MUIR – Horchata Vs. Sil Muir

I never listened to Horchata (Michael Palace) before, whereas Andrea Marutti and Andrea Ferraris aka Sil Muir (here credited with guitars and treatments) are known quantities on these shores. Two purring tracks are featured: “Ahnedonia” is pretty much worn out, a rather superficial drone based upon extensive reverberations and nebulous non-manifestations, similar to thousands of equally insignificant other pieces in this field. “Time Dilation” is unquestionably better, the pulsation of the harmonics definitely more gripping, the atmospheric qualities on another level – almost excellent, I’d say. It makes me feel like dreaming of a dirigible’s hum. Too bad for the echoing clicks entering the scene after a while, the whirring alone was enough.

CORDELL KLIER – Phono 4

Aerials must be raised high to detect what’s happening in the first part of this segment (headphones are recommended), but the micro-sounds and the small noises perceived have already been utilized hundreds of times and don’t make much of an impact on me these days. Tiny crackles, rustling objects – you get the picture – yet without a precise architecture, or at least a consequence we can be really glad about. Things become a little more interesting when strange purring frequencies are introduced, shifting the balance towards the area where the influence of sound on the psyche is deeper. Still, the concoction remains somewhat incomplete lacking a real compositional plan, the feeling one of excessive fragmentariness. Klier has definitely treated us to superior material in the past.

VOX POPULI! – Soft Entrance To Nature’s Camino De Luz

Axel Kyrou dedicated his work “to all the animals featured” in it. This is already a good reason to love him, and the sonic aspects are also sufficiently agreeable; in fact, he seems to have included a lot of environmental factors that I like: gorgeous frogs, sleep-inducing crickets, the fabulous arching drone of a motor aircraft, various kinds of evocative echoes. The urban activities were taped in disparate regions such as Burkina Faso and Okinawa (besides France of course). The only thing to abhor is the presence of synthetic strings and choirs – kill those presets once and for all, please – and (luckily rare) elementary melodies, but I’m willing to forgive this time. A candid effort that won’t remain in the annals of concrete/electroacoustic music – it’s really a tad too naïve for that – yet has managed to find a little place in my heart, at least for this morning.

TZESNE – Crossing TierraHueca

Four tracks. “Thorns And Lizards”: skilful harmonic layering of different droning chords, ebbing and flowing for maximum nerve pleasure, wonderful stuff to play for hours. “Dulce Artefacto II”: gathering of jets, maybe crickets, various hisses and frequencies from the environment. Already heard, but very well made and growing on the listener with surprising efficacy, also a nice perfume for your own room. “Place”: undefined location recordings acting as a background for an electronic drone that could even derive from a processed guitar, then a breathtaking nocturnal resonance rises to shut our mind up once and for all; one appreciates seclusion and feels admiration for the composer at the same time during this great piece. “Swarm”: on a basis of nebulous uncertainty sounding like a peculiarly equalized electric piano, amplified (and possibly pitch-shifted) insect sounds prelude to another enthralling near-motionless growth. Among the thousands of useless releases typical of this musical area, this 3-inch sets the bar quite high in terms of quality, especially in virtue of the artist’s conciseness: a good idea shown for a few minutes, then goodbye and welcome to the next, no endlessly boring suites full of nothing. A paradigm that should be imitated.

MATHIAS DELPLANQUE – Ma Chambre Quand Je N’y Suis Pas (Paris)

If I understand French correctly, the title means “my room when I’m not there”. The intro sounds rather normal, lots of echoes – presumably from a city setting – as heard from within an apartment with windows open. Then a huge mumbling low frequency swallows everything, but the noise from the road is still distinctly perceptible, utilized by Delplanque as an indispensable shade. After a while the whole becomes a little more rarefied, large empty spaces and desert vistas characterizing the evolution of the piece. Synthetic waves – or perhaps it’s electronically modified wind? – seem to constitute the origin of the only factor of slight change, whereas from the underground a strong pulse appears and disappears worryingly; from then on, you get the customary helping of heavily equalized aircrafts, cars, frogs (?) and steps. Overall well conceived, yet the ingredients are overly familiar to define the work as unique. It does sound nice, though.

MICHAEL NORTHAM – Memory Of A

The incessant harsh buzz of a drill (or similar electric machinery) introduces to an enticing static soundscape whose body is gradually enlarged by progressive stratifications, each element taken from the surrounding world – the large part, apparently, from human-related working activities but I could be wrong – and placed in context through the exploitation of its harmonic capability, meaning that every constituent plays a different note in this splendidly uneven drone. Think of Charlemagne Palestine’s resonance studies with the oscillators replaced by concrete sounds. It doesn’t take much for the brain to be completely subjugated, and the slight tolling of metals playing basic rhythms and figurations upon the mantra-like constancy add a welcome touch of unquiet uncertainty in an otherwise utterly entrancing piece, the intrinsically awesome slow sliding perceivable during the last minutes and the final organ shades confirming Northam as one of the greats.

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