Alga Marghen

Éliane Radigue: composition, all sounds

I’ll fight the reluctance to write on Radigue – among my overall favorites, should you have missed it – given that Opus 17 (published, at last!) offers room for some different considerations. In recent years, the precipitous increase in the number of items dedicated to the French master of subsonic pulse has been clearly noticed over here, to the point that one wonders if the name “Éliane Radigue” has become something of an uptown trend. The answer is a definite “yes” but the music remains fabulous, for our good luck. Especially because the lady’s archives incorporate plenty of exceptional materials like this.

Speaking of “exceptional”: regrettably, it is impossible not to highlight Alga Marghen’s atrocious quality in regard to most of its vinyl pressings, absolutely not on a par with the historical relevance (and, in the case of this double LP, the beauty) of the substance issued. Systematic crackles, pops and farts had literally killed all the positive stimuli when I bought the same artist’s Feedback Works; this time things went better, however this is auditory communication of the highest rank deserving imperial treatment, which the Milanese label almost never warrants. Take a look at certain spot-on comments on Discogs, where many people besides myself are wondering how in the world composers at this level still accept their output getting butchered by such a shameful lack of care for the sonic aspects, beyond the “collector’s item” sticker. The prices aren’t even low. The possibility of digital downloads is a must for the buyers of these records.

In sheer acoustic terms, which is what ultimately counts, we’re talking about life-sustaining presences in every assimilative listener’s home. These pieces’ background can be comfortably reconstructed by merely surfing the web, as this is a cardinal passing phase for Radigue’s explorations of the properties of resonant matters (…to think that in 1970 I was six…). Her experimentations with contact microphones and feedback applied on fragments of existing music (Chopin, Wagner) to turn them into ghostly appearances and looping semiaquatic luminescences predate – of at least three decades – countless present-day peddlers of second-hand doodads. And, I presume, there’s no need to emphasize the truly divine and genuinely transfixing droning: “Maquette” and “Number 17” alone are worth the whole discographies of Eleh, Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin fused together.

Pray for a decorous enough copy, for this release can’t be overlooked. Here comes that word again: masterpiece.

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