Different Reactions To A Pair Of Idiosyncratics

A Belgian label met for the first time. Mixed feelings.

PHIL MAGGI – Blue Fields In Paramount

Maggi is essentially a vocalist who uses his natural instrument to initiate a whole world of superimposed and broadened morphing mantras and reach states of selfless entrancement. But that’s not all: for this CD, he utilized field recordings from Croatia (including road musicians and the insides of a church) and modified samples of classic music to create a sheltering sonic structure that welcomes repeated tries, despite being composed of elements that couldn’t really be described as previously unheard. Indeed there’s virtually everything you could expect for a homemade spellbinding trip: backward tapes, sounds of dripping water, tangled loops, stretched-out chorales. Yet Maggi applies the necessary touches with a considerable measure of – dare I say – love for life which is constantly noticeable. This transforms an otherwise ordinary album in a relieving episode of introspective transcendence, spiced with attention-grabbing snippets from different cultures adding to the intrigue. In synthesis, one of my favourite non-groundbreaking outings of 2009. Curious to hear more from this man.

Y.E.R.M.O. – Collision Zone

A combination of two duos – Yannick Franck and Xavier Dubois (Y.E.R.M.O.) versus visual artists Nadine Hilbert and Gast Bouschet – for the soundtrack of the Luxembourg Pavillion at 53th Venice Biennale in 2009. The press release says that this is an “invocation of the coldness and cruelty of a border zone between two worlds”, but these “qualities” appear as a façade hiding an inadequate sonic substance. The music is dominated by cumulative distortion for its large part, an amassment of saturated guitars at the limit of tolerability occupying a sizeable portion of the CD. As time elapses, a few ingredients are added: unremitting percussion, field recordings, industrial hues. The feeling remains one of (supposed) threat until the end. The problem, as usual, lies in the fact that this kind of stuff works probably better when experienced on site; quite honestly, as a simple recording on disc it doesn’t amount to much. There’s nothing that I haven’t heard before and even the “menace factor” is not working properly, all of those clangorous roars leaving this listener reasonably unconvinced.

POST SCRIPTUM 12/31/2009. After a (civil) exchange of opinions via email with Yannick Franck I felt compelled to listen to Collision Zone for the fourth time. Though my general impression has not changed, something must be indeed added. First of all, this CD must be played LOUD for best effect, which I hadn’t done before, remaining content with a medium-volume setting both via headphones and through speakers. A decisive increasing of the volume introduced me to an appreciable quantity of massive underground vibrations that render the music definitely more effective on a physical level. Another thing that should be better defined: although layers of distorted guitars are often utilized, they don’t actually “dominate” the large part of the record, but just characterize some of the tracks, while other sections (i.e. the finale) are informed by a measure of hope more than “threat” as I wrote. Upon our exchange, I also realized that Mr.Franck could be right when he tells me that the review could potentially throw Y.E.R.M.O. in the cauldron of noisy ignorance. That is NOT the case: even if I haven’t been able to find overly positive aspects in this music, it was crafted and composed with a sincere purpose, which is clearly felt throughout. I apologize to Y.E.R.M.O. and to any interested party if the review sounded ambiguous in that sense, which certainly was not in my intention.
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