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Thread: Empreintes DIGITALes label

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    Empreintes DIGITALes label

    Hi all...

    So I decided to start writing short-ish reviews for the avantmusicnews.com site of albums from this label.

    I'll post here as well since there are a few that may be interested in them. That being said, I would highly recommend you check out the AMN site!! I think many of you do already since I've seen it mentioned, but Mike has been doing a great job with it for a long time.

    I'll use this thread as the bookmark for all reviews on this label going forward. That way I won't clutter the board up. These reviews will most likely come at a snails pace, at least to begin with, but they will be coming, and they will be very random.

    Here is my first post, just an introduction to the label, and a little about where I'm coming from in relation to this music:




    Iíll be starting a series of occasional posts about the Canadian label empreintes DIGITALes. What this will entail will be random reviews of some of my favorite releases from this label, of which there are many. This first post will just be a short introduction to the label, although I realize that many readers of this site will not need one. Iíll conclude with some brief words about what informs my thoughts and views as I review this music.

    The label was founded in 1989 and is based out of Montreal Canada. Its focus is Acousmatic, Electro/Acoustic and musique concrete. With nearly 200 releases in their catalog, the label is a very large resource and repository of music that strictly and/or loosely fall into this style.

    Their releases are not only a fantastic source for, in my opinion a severely under publicized and under recognized style of music but are also known for their pristine sound quality. The latter, for me elevates each listen to event status. I often feel that after any particular album is finished, I just experienced in my home the closest to an acoustically perfect concert hall diffusion. This is facilitated by exceedingly clean stereo sound. Also, to just up the ante, many of their releases are available in 5 and 7 channel mixís. If you have the sound gear to listen to music this way, itís truly an unforgettable experience. Of note also, they offer high quality downloads in MP3, OGG and FLAC formats. The labels main distribution outlet is electrocd.com.

    From my obviously biased perspective, as seen by my desire to undertake this potentially large project, I feel I can safely say that my signal to noise ratio from this label is extremely high. Frankly, I canít remember hearing any out and out ďdudsĒ. While certainly thatís a personal opinion, if you are even tangentially interested in this music, I would say the empreintes DIGITALes label is a fine starting place.

    Iíll conclude this post with a bit about me. I believe much of this music is unfortunately siloíed within academic circles. Without hard evidence, Iím under the impression that for the most part, itís composed by practitioners, for other practitioners in the field. Any considerations for a wider appreciation is not visible to me. Iím not an academic, nor a practitioner/creator. Iím just a guy who derives great enjoyment from each experience. Maybe this makes me an anomaly? Regardless, every encounter I have with this music is, (to borrow a coined phrase by Francis Dhomont) A cinema for the Ears.

    Hopefully others feel the same. Stay tuned for some reviews.

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    I guess I have about 30 titles on this label. I really do think that anybody with an adventurous set of ears can appreciate this kind of music. My own introduction to electronic music was in the late 60's (I was about 16), when a good friend played Stockhausen's DGG LP that contained "Song of the Youths" among other works. I guess someone working at a record store recommended it to him, because otherwise we were listening to rock. The only musical background we had was being in the high school band. He played baritone horn, I played percussion. I then remember buying "Ummagumma" when it came out, which has some pretty far out stuff on it as well. That's really all it took to get me to appreciate what used to be called "sound art". One of John Cage's famous quotes is "Everything we do is music". Remember, the dictionary definition of music is "organized sounds", then it goes on to say "usually containing rhythm, melody, etc.". The sounds are definitely organized in the electroacoustic/acousmatic music on this label, and there's a world of sounds and movement in the stereo field that I've never heard in any other recordings. At some point I'll list some of my favorite albums on this label as well.

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    Paul Dolden – Histoires d’histoire (2017; empreintes DIGITALes)

    In my label introduction, I mentioned that the music on empreintes DIGITALes generally falls into the Acousmatic/Electro-Acoustic/musique concrete style. Well, I’m going to have to take issue (with myself at least) because, as the good Captain Beefheart said, “Labels are for cans, man”. Paul Dolden's 2017 mega-epic does not really fit the mold. I realize this release may be an odd one to start this series with but since I’ve been binging on Dolden’s music for the better part of 3 weeks now, this is where we begin.

    Dolden has been composing and recording for well over 3 decades now but only has a surprisingly few releases that have made it out into the wild. Histoires d’histoire is his latest. I’ve heard and greatly enjoyed most of his material and I would feel comfortable in saying he’s a slow but extremely meticulous, exacting composer. And why shouldn’t he be. Wouldn’t you be slow too if you were layering hundreds upon hundreds of tracks on top of each other? Wouldn’t you want to take your time to get that mix just right so you can hear EVERYTHING that is going on within these layers? Wouldn’t you have to master what I can only imagine to be a huge learning curve to conquer, or at least tame the tech that allows you to create such massive monoliths of sound?

    And what about the compositions themselves? Shouldn’t it take, like forever to compose, let alone arrange this exceedingly (to my ears) complex music? Wouldn’t the painstaking work of documenting this work with scores take awhile? One would certainly think you would need some musical chops to play this complex music, right? When you're living in Dolden’s world, the answers to all these rhetorical questions is, of course a resounding YES?

    Defending his work ethic aside, on to the music itself. I’ve seen the term “maximalist” thrown around quite a bit when describing his work (labels/cans…I know). This music definitely inhabits the “more is more” realm. You can begin anywhere within this 80 minute album and the first thing you will probably notice, (after your brain re-sets itself to assimilate the microtonal, odd tunings and polyrhythms he liberally employs) is the sheer amount of detail in each piece. Electric guitars and keyboards (the Electro) stand proudly next to the army of flutes, brass, cello, choir, percussion and trap sets (the Acoustic) to create a living, breathing beast of a thing. Certainly something that takes a myriad of listens to even begin to understand, if understanding it is indeed possible. Yeah, this music takes work.

    The work will pay off though, depending on your attentiveness and personal ear it may be sooner, or later, but it will pay off. Without going into detail about each and every piece, the album is comprised of 3 long compositions. The first 44 minute piece, “Music of another present era” is further subdivided into 5 shorter parts. The remaining 2 pieces are shorter, clocking in at 18 minutes and 16 minutes respectively. On this album, Dolden is exploring musics multi-cultural qualities by creating a mishmosh of sounds and moods that are constantly morphing in and around, and back in again to each other.

    I can’t really think of many composers working in this style. Dolden’s sound is “unique” to say the least. As possible signposts, Dirk “Mont” Campbell’s "Music from a Round Tower" may point you in a similar direction. Jade Warrior's Island label releases also give off a similar vibe. Biota/Mnemonists maybe for their recording techniques? Neither will get you close to the breath, depth and overall “bigness” of sound though. Give this album a listen, and prepare to fractalize yourself. You can hear samples of all the pieces here:

    https://electrocd.com/en/album/5712/...res_d_histoire

    You can also hear two longer pieces in their entirety on Dolden’s Bandcamp page:

    https://pauldolden.bandcamp.com/trac...emastered-2020

    https://pauldolden.bandcamp.com/trac...emastered-2020

    best
    Michael
    Last edited by neuroticdog; 1 Week Ago at 12:34 PM.
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    At work now, but will check these samples and pieces out soon!

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    Paul Dolden – Seuil de silences (2003; empreintes DIGITALes)

    Since there has been a considerable stylistic and compositional shift in Paul Dolden’s music between this, his first album for empreintes DIGITALes and the last one I reviewed, (Histoires d’histoire), I would like to explore this release and possibly/hopefully give some insight as to how his sound evolved. Seuil de silences has a bit of a tangled history. The genesis of this release was in 1990 with The Threshold of Deafening Silence on the now defunct Tronia label. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but listening to it now, three decades on I can say that what he was doing was fairly groundbreaking, if not, downright extreme for it’s time. I would even go as far as to say, our world hasn't caught up to these four pieces yet.

    Using 1990 tape technology, Dolden was able to achieve a sound that was sonically massive AND compositionally advanced for what was generally considered “ambient” music back then. In fact, if you (mistakenly) dropped him into that category you would have been discounting his musical and technical skills. I’m not on a mission to belittle in any way the fine talents of musicians like Steve Roach or Robert Rich but clearly, this release finds Dolden walking a very different sonic pathway. There were some similarities, possibly his use of untuned and tuned percussion presented at times a sort of ritualistic/tribal feel to the music that was popping up at the time. His technique of recording hundreds of tracks of acoustic instruments and then layering them on top of each other enabling him to explore different (micro) tonalities and timbres within the “note” did not share any similarities though, and this is what I think separated him from the Ambient crowd and placed him squarely within the Acousmatic zone.

    In 2003, empreintes DIGITALes released Seuil de silences (Threshold of Silences). This release shared 3 of the tape compositions from Threshold of Deafening Silence plus two more compositions featuring live soloists and tape. The shared tracks were remastered by Dolden using up to date, state of the art studio gear. There are some major aural differences in this release compared to the 1990 predecessor. Seuil de silences has a much larger bass presence. Thankfully, this does not muddy up the sound and, in fact adds even more drama and power to the compositions, something that I didn’t think was possible. It also seems to be generally louder and more “in your face" than the 1990 version. Again, given the fact that these pieces display an absurd amount of power and intensity to begin with, adding more loudness may sound like overkill to some, although I’m not one who thinks this is so. Finally, there were some musical content changes made that resulted in changing the times of the pieces by a small amount. Since I haven’t A-B’ed these versions on a granular level, I can’t really speak to these changes but, I believe they are minor…realizing the composer may think differently.

    About the album, right out of the gate we have “Below the Walls of Jericho”. This is part one of a “Jericho” triptych that continues with his next 2 albums, Intoxicated by Speed 1 and 2. I can’t stress enough how searingly intense this piece gets in places. Realizing that Acousmatic music is meant for the listener to interpret in their own personal way without concerning (and distracting) themselves with such trivial things as sound sources or the “how” of creating the music…one can’t help but wonder “how" exactly did Dolden come up with this malevolent entity of sound? Instead of wasting space talking about process, if interested you can read liner notes and other commentary by the composer here.

    https://electrocd.com/en/album/2331/...il_de_silences

    There are aspects that stand out for me though. His controlled use of dynamics is unparalleled. There are parts throughout that can easily lull you into a serene state of catatonia only to be bludgeoned back into the real suddenly and without warning. Contrastingly, there are moments where you can see it coming. You can hear and feel the build and you know you are about to experience a wheezing, screaming, utterly menacing Harpy encounter and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

    Then there is his penchant for ending a phrase in a very dry manner. Let me try and explain this…you are reaching the tail end of a passage that is constructed with up to 400 tracks of wind, reed, string, choir and metal percussive instruments. The passage ends suddenly and without warning. The ending is not a hard cut as if you are turning off a light switch but it’s an ending where the instruments themselves just simply stop playing. It all sounds very natural and you can even hear residual noises of the musicians that were recorded lifting their fingers from their instruments or the fading ring of struck metal decaying into the ether. The effect is riveting, and it’s something that really needs to be heard rather than described with puny words.

    Everything about this recording seems up close and personal, as if you were living inside the sound. Remember the movie Fantastic Voyage from the 60’s? It’s like that…you know!

    My personal experience with this music is, first and foremost trying to wrap my head around the sheer immensity of the sound stage. Sometimes I’ll spend the length of an entire album of Dolden music just marveling at it’s vastness. If I do happen to get past this stage, the body aspect kicks in. I begin to feel it, in all its bone shaking splendor. Everything I’ve mentioned is part of the physical world but if you are able to peel back the onion layer and start to experience it on a cerebral level, well that’s when the game really begins.



    Paul Dolden is one of the most innovative artists out there right now. He has actually done a second remaster which he is posting to his Bandcamp page. Among other released and unreleased pieces, he has made available the piece “Below the Walls of Jericho” with this new remaster. He considers these the definitive versions of his works The fact that he’s under the radar is criminal. Have a listen, see for yourselves.

    https://pauldolden.bandcamp.com/

    A final word, as in all acousmatic music, a good sound system will enhance your experience by orders of magnitude. My preferred way of listening is though decent earbuds augmented with a DAC/headphone amp. A You Tube video through computer speakers is not optimal so, if you can, try and listen on a good system of your choice.

    best
    Michael
    Last edited by neuroticdog; 3 Days Ago at 11:24 AM.
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    Michael, i dig Seuil de Silences and ordered the cd.Thanks for hipping me(us) to it.
    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

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    Quote Originally Posted by walt View Post
    Michael, i dig Seuil de Silences and ordered the cd.Thanks for hipping me(us) to it.
    Hi Walt,

    that’s awesome, and given what I know of your musical tastes, I’m going to say that you would dig his next 2 albums L’ivresse de la vitesse 1 and 2 (Intoxicated by Speed) even more. They carry his sound vision to even further extremes (believe it or not)!

    Best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    Yes, I have several Paul Dolden pieces scattered around on compilations (Empreintes Digitales' "Excitations" and Asphodel's "A Storm of Drones" are the only ones I remember off the top of my head right now). Great stuff! Incidentally, that "Storm of Drones" 3 CD compilation has an entire CD of Empreintes Digitales artists, all mixed together into one long 75-minute piece that would make a great introduction to that label. https://www.discogs.com/Various-A-St...e/329608?ev=rr Hope I haven't already mentioned it in a previous post. All three of those Asphodel "Drone" compilations are great: "Throne of Drones", "Swarm of Drones" and "Storm of Drones".

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    Quote Originally Posted by soundsweird View Post
    Yes, I have several Paul Dolden pieces scattered around on compilations (Empreintes Digitales' "Excitations" and Asphodel's "A Storm of Drones" are the only ones I remember off the top of my head right now). Great stuff! Incidentally, that "Storm of Drones" 3 CD compilation has an entire CD of Empreintes Digitales artists, all mixed together into one long 75-minute piece that would make a great introduction to that label. https://www.discogs.com/Various-A-St...e/329608?ev=rr Hope I haven't already mentioned it in a previous post. All three of those Asphodel "Drone" compilations are great: "Throne of Drones", "Swarm of Drones" and "Storm of Drones".
    Hey SW,

    Yes, you did mention that in another thread but I got to ask. Given the nature of those Asphodel discs...and this is only my assumption that the music contained therein is primarily "drone" driven (never heard this disc)...some of the tracks on that first disc are not drones at all. For instance, the first excerpt from Normandeau called "Tangram", that piece is not a drone at all and I'm curious what part did they choose to include that is "drone-like"? Same thing with Dhomont, I really can't recall him doing anything remotely close to a drone.

    The Dolden piece, "Veils" definitely falls into the "drone" category (for the most part). I would have to go back and revisit others that I have in my collection to see if there is any "drone-like" qualities to them. So, I'm wondering if someone remixed these and just used the source material to construct a 75 minute drone piece using samples of these artists?

    If that's that case, I think it's an awesome idea and would love to hear it. Regardless, I'd still love to hear how they threaded everything together and in context with each other.

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    No, Michael, most of the pieces on the Empreintes Digitales disc are not very drone-like at all. Asphodel did use excerpts in many cases, but they didn't just choose bits that were drony. I must say that, with the exception of the Empreintes Digitales disc, most of the tracks on all 3 "Drones" albums fit the drone category somewhat, though nothing is New Agey, it's all edgy and experimental. While the Asphodel folks didn't remix any tracks, the liner notes do say something about sound enhancement on some tracks (not on the Empreintes Digitales disc) which I'm guessing is akin to those 70's albums that utilized the Artificial Head System, something you'd pick up if you listened on headphones. Not at home right now, so can't recall exactly how they described the "sound enhancement". Anyway, I will say that the sound quality on those 3 "Drones" albums is unusually good, specifically the presence.

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