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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:




    I’ll 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. I’ll 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 mix’s. If you have the sound gear to listen to music this way, it’s 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 can’t remember hearing any out and out “duds”. While certainly that’s a personal opinion, if you are even tangentially interested in this music, I would say the empreintes DIGITALes label is a fine starting place.

    I’ll conclude this post with a bit about me. I believe much of this music is unfortunately silo’ed within academic circles. Without hard evidence, I’m under the impression that for the most part, it’s composed by practitioners, for other practitioners in the field. Any considerations for a wider appreciation is not visible to me. I’m not an academic, nor a practitioner/creator. I’m 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; 01-12-2021 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; 01-17-2021 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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    Evenin...

    Re. that first disc of empreintes artists from Storm of Drones, here is an excerpt from a review on Amazon from someone who sounds pretty knowledgeable about the entire set:

    The three-CD format of "A Storm of Drones" permits a somewhat broader - and deeper - exploration of 'music of the drone' than that undertaken in either of this volume's precursors. This is noticeable from the outset, with the first CD in the set - bearing the subtitle of "Audio" - consisting of some eleven extracts of works previously released in the electroacoustic and acousmatic catalogue of the Canadian recording company DIFFUSION i MéDIA (better known nowadays as electrocd.com, a company that has subsequently released the full versions of some of the works featured on the second CD in this set, by the way.)
    The length of the excerpts presented here varies greatly: from a couple of two-minute movements lifted from Francis Dhomont's "...mourir un peu" to major (i.e. 13+ minutes) chunks of works such as Robert Normandeau's "Tangram" and Stéphane Roy's "Crystal Music". The extract from the latter, in fact, consists of almost the entire 14 minutes of the original, although inexplicably missing the opening five seconds-worth and with the final two minutes presented in a different form. ("Tangram" is also presented in a different mix from that appearing on Normandeau's own discs - the version that appears here is more compact in places and would seem to be part of an earlier edition of the work.)
    All of the materials included on this disc, though, have been chosen for their slowly unfolding form, as well as for their reliance on textural development as opposed to gestural articulation. They thus provide a concentration of essentially drone-based material which all sits well together while, of course, also fitting into the theme of the series. So consistent is this material, though, that it is hard to believe that it was not written to fit together this way, with each composer's extract segueing seamlessly into the next - and all without a single dull moment, too.


    A friend of mine who is reading this thread also informed me that there is (or were... as the label might be out of business) some really diverse and interesting things that they released. There is a Francis Dhomont release called Frankenstein Symphony that is on the label and I can strongly recommend it, in fact it's right up there with his strongest work. It's Dhomont organizing sounds collected from his students into four coherent movements. It's very dramatic and intense in spots and it was one of the first things, if not my very first exposure to acousmatic music. They also released some things by Maryanne Amacher, Cage, Xenakis and other avantgard composers so they were all over the place. He mentioned it's all worth seeking out if you can find them.

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

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    Robert Normandeau – Figures (2009; empreintes DIGITALes)

    I consider Montreal based artist Robert Normandeau’s work an excellent gateway to the weird, wonderful world of Acousmatic music. The release of Figures in 1999 (and reissued in 2009) provides a great launchpad for exploration, either backwards or forwards. Figures lacks some of the more abstract moves that were heard on the 1994 release Tangram but still retained enough of what I consider a traditional “acousmatic feel” (that is to say, ambiguous sound sources made even more ambiguous by synthetic manipulation that is artfully and logically stitched together to form a synergistically satisfying whole). Beginning with Puzzles (2005) his music became more polished, more smooth edged. Elements of power electronics and drone were very creatively employed while still maintaining his original artistic aesthetic. These later albums were excellent in their own right but stylistically different than his earlier works.

    The reason I believe Normandeau’s work is a good gateway to the Acousmatic world is because he does not shy away from melody. He creates notes that are relative to each other, thus creating intervals which in turn create harmonic figures, something that can be interpreted as melody. This may provide a bit of a lifeline to someone’s first encounter with this music. Instead of an initial reaction like “what is this noise I’m hearing”, it may give the listener a feeling of familiarity or safe harbor. Maybe some respite from all the other “alien” sounds that are also being presented. Additionally, the later releases (Puzzles, Palimpsests, Domes) have sounds/drones that may resemble what is coming out of the Ambient/Dark Ambient or even Industrial world. This material may hold more familiarity with some.

    Figures is comprised of four long pieces ranging from 13 to 19 minutes. Three of the pieces were constructed strictly in the studio with no human interaction other than the composer. Only “Figures de rhetorique” had a live performer interacting with the tape (Jacques Drouin on piano).

    The first piece, “The Fox and the Rose” relies heavily on Normandeau’s fondness for using the human voice as a sound source. The voice appears quite frequently in many of his releases across his catalog. In this instance, it is used not to convey language but more of a reservoir for various sounds. Laughs, grunts and guttural exclamations are sampled and manipulated to produce actual beats and other features throughout. This piece is a fascinating journey that flows along in a linear fashion, constantly morphing in a very natural manner where the listener might not realize the changes that are taking place until it’s over. This, as in all the pieces on Figures packs a lot of power and is quite the riveting listen. It crescendos in grand Parmegiani-esq fashion with a twisting kaleidoscopic whirlwind of sound.

    https://youtu.be/pTvm0-Ct-Os

    The next piece, “Figures de rhetorique” has the added benefit of a live performer on piano. The piano contribution is scored in parts and improvised in others and is a wonderful foil to the synthetic wrangling from Normandeau. This results in a very successful studio marriage between the acoustic and the electric. Over it’s 14 minute time frame we have a frenetic work out of spikey Don Pullen-like piano clusters augmented by the omnipresent studio mutations by the composer. This clip is performed by Vasyl Tsanko handling the piano duties.


    https://youtu.be/w7QMOqzU5ZU

    Next comes “Venture”. This is my second favorite work on the album behind “The Fox and the Rose”, but it is a bit of an outlier. This is Normandeau’s homage to day’s gone by, namely 70’ rock…and to be even more precise, 70’s progrock. This piece seems to be constructed exclusively of samples from his progrock record collection, although I’m finding it difficult to identify the source material on most of this. (Maybe I’m not as big of a fan as I thought I was, shame on me I guess!) Normandeau did a masterful job of stitching taped snippits of this material together and the end result is otherworldly. It doesn’t have the punchy attack of everything else on this record, instead it’s an endless flow of layered sounds that all seem to coalesce within each other. I see it as a gentle excursion into the past and I believe Tod Dockstader would be proud of him.

    https://youtu.be/RsypVil8TRg
    https://youtu.be/jN0E2Kw1ZN4

    Finally, we get to “Ellipse”. This is a collaboration between Normandeau and guitarist Arturo Parra. Parra typically works within the crossroads of fixed medium mixed with acoustic guitar. He has an excellent release, also on empreintes DIGITALes called Parr (A) Cousmatic that I’d like to write about eventually and is well worth checking out. This piece is another brilliant pairing that just works. Parra’s level of playing is technically precise as well as emotionally charged, and the synergies released from this combination is brilliant. You can hear a short sample (which unfortunately does not do the piece justice) as well as the liner notes for the album and other biographical information here.

    https://electrocd.com/fr/album/2365/...andeau/Figures

    Figures is my most played Normandeau album but I can recommend his entire catalog. He is another (in a long line) of composers on the empreintes DIGITALes label that deserve a level of higher recognition in the electronic music world. This record provides a great starting point if you have yet to experience him.

    best
    Michael
    Last edited by neuroticdog; 4 Weeks Ago at 07:28 PM.
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    "Figures" is a fine album. My electronic music prof at U.T. played "The Fox and the Rose" every couple of years for the new students.

    Thanks for sharing that Amazon review of "Storm of Drones". That guy (Steve Benner) is fairly knowledgeable about many of the artists on those albums. I went in and read all of his reviews for all three "Drones" albums in the series.

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    Francis Dhomont – Les dérives du signe (1996; empreintes DIGITALes) Images nomades (2020; empreintes DIGITALes)

    This write-up was just going to be about Francis Dhomont’s latest, Images nomades, but then it occurred to me that since I detected some changes in his overall sound from the 80’s material, of which Les dérives du signe is primarily comprised of, it may be of interest to look backward and examine the earlier album as well. This would leave the door open to say a few words about some differences my non professional/non practitioner ears have heard. Without a doubt though, both albums are nothing short of brilliant, and why wouldn’t they be coming from one of the genre’s most accomplished professionals?


    Les dérives du signe was originally released as the second disc of a two CD set called Mouvances-Métaphores in 1991 but later released as a stand alone disc in 1996. To quote the composer regarding the four pieces on this album, "These four works play with diversion. The diversion: of musical discourse in Novars, of sound sources in Chiaroscuro, of sensory perception (synesthesia) in Météores (Meteors), and of nature in Signé Dionysos.” He then further ties things together by saying that the "works are united around the common theme of movement as with virtual displacement of sound in geometric space, or metaphorical transferences of meaning into the realms of imagination”.

    That last quote is telling because I consider both of the “movements” he references germane to all Acousmatic music. The most obvious example would be in the piece Météores. Dhomont’s use of panning techniques as well as volume manipulation and dead silent space is masterful here. The whole sound field is used as a stage, and this stage is as big as the night sky itself. The sense of constant movement is palatable, and the rising, and subsequent falling intensity in this work creates a sense of wonder and awe that acts as a key to unlock whatever celestial vision your mind can conjure.

    Signé Dionysos, the longest excursion on the album (28 minutes) brings you back down to earth, at least for a little while. This piece exudes a sense of the organic. Here we have recognizable sounds such as chirping birds, children running/playing and, in a prominent starring role, frogs... possibly many frogs doing whatever frogs do down at the local pond. All this is augmented by longer, more processed sounds of indeterminate origin (or quite possibly of the natural sounds referenced above…but does it matter?) which serve as a darkened pathway towards realms more mystical. Suddenly the pastoral mood of nature morphs into something substantially more menacing. Dhomont’s talent for stitching disparate moods together in a biologically pure way is on full display here.

    Novars, which is actually the first piece on this album consists primarily of two sound sources; a quotation from Pierre Schaeffer’s Étude aux objets and, what was surely a big hit in ’64 (and I’m talking about 1364 here) Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame. There is also a guest cameo appearance of Pierre Henry’s famous creaking door from Variations pour une porte et un soupir. To me, Novars is a great example of organizing sounds within a traditional musical structure. I hear reoccurring themes coming back to act as prelude to another (usually lengthy) passage of dark and somewhat disturbing sound mutations only to resolve themselves back to the “safe” bridge of what occurred earlier. The surprises happen after these short interludes and it’s these long passages that free the mind to wander within unfamiliar landscapes.

    The piece Chiaroscuro is my favorite of this set. As the title suggests, it’s the play between shadow and light. Dhomont might be asking the question of what happens at the murky borderline where the two meet? Using sounds plundered from some of his earlier compositions but processed in ways preventing any recognition on the listeners part, he creates a stunning sound world that I would suspect even the most imaginative person would find challenging to navigate. For me, every listen (and there have been many) yields a new, fresh and completely mind expanding experience. Dhomont ability to creatively (an understatement) organize sounds leads the listener on an endless journey of changing moods, landscapes and emotions…one that is not soon forgotten!




    Jumping forward to 2020, we are treated to a new release. Images nomades seems to update and transport the listener to the potentials of what 21st century technology can add to Acousmatic music. To the very processed driven, this release presents a conundrum of sorts. Just what is synthetic and what is sampled? Frankly it’s very hard to tell…but I’ll ask again, should we care? After-all, per the classical definition of Acousmatic music, all sounds should be separated from their origin. For one to really appreciate the sound, where it came from is immaterial. While this may present an interesting “game” the listener can play, I feel that at the end of the day it’s how the sounds add to your experience while listening to them that really matters. How they were produced is of secondary consideration.

    The album is split into two parts. The first part has three lengthy pieces that the composer says fall into his “abstract” work. Quoting him… “By abstract, I mean works that have no other subject than the music itself and which unfold solely along sonic criteria; rhythmical motifs; variations in density, intensity, material, shape; studies on how to occupy space; etc. They do not imply any metaphor. My figurative works, on the other hand, are those that are inspired by a non-musical theme, be it from poetry, literature, psychoanalysis, etc.” The second half of the album are shorter pieces and are all dedicated to his fellow Acousmatic voyagers.

    The first piece is Phoenix XXI, named because he once again used samples from very old recordings and “reanimated” them (the Phoenix rising from the ashes) with present day technology. The ambiguity of sounds here is in full force. After Dhomont's sonic sorcery, these “very old” recordings sound very 21st century. There is a highly polished gleam to this piece that evokes images of a Blade Runner-esqe tableau replete with gleaming chrome androids, flying cars, alien shaped drones and any number of Speculative Fiction tropes your brain can spin up. It’s hard to imagine that these were once organic sounds as this piece sounds completely synthesized. An unhinged Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schultz will get you to the general vicinity, but Phoenix XXI will take you further, much much further. Because of this high-tech sheen, this piece and others on this album stand in contrast to anything I’ve heard from him before. The organic way of stitching sounds together are a constant throughout his catalog but nothing sounds quite as “glistening" as Images nomades.

    Here is the work being diffused on the St. Petersburg Acousmonium of all things. If the music isn’t your thing, thats fine…but at least geek out on the sound system rig (man)!



    The second longer work is Machin de machine, dedicated to Conlon Nacarrow. This is yet another feast for the ears. An Acousmatic drum solo perhaps? Maybe, but (insert favorite drummer here) would need to be neural linked to an hallucinogenic stew to even come close to this. The dedication makes total sense as no human, augmented or otherwise would ever be able to play this.

    The third piece, Perpetuum mobile (Pluies fantômes) acts as a companion piece to Phoenix XXI and everything I mentioned above can be carried over to this towering monolith of the George Jetson age. Taken together, these 3 pieces provide roughly 35 minutes of aural astonishment. At this point, I certainly wouldn’t criticize you for ending the journey since your head would surely be busting with sounds and images…however, if your ears have the gumption and the backbone to continue, there are nine shorter works each dedicated to another Acousmatic composer. Even without knowing who the dedications where on some of these (had to check the liner notes) these shorter works succeeded for me, and taken as a whole, this second half of the album is very much the equal of the first. If anything, the general mood is darker, and the concise nature of each work can barely contain the ideas that are explored within.

    Images nomades is an exhausting, exhilarating and highly rewarding listening experience. The fact that Francis Dhomont, who is now in his mid nineties and is still advancing this sonic art form is a gift that should not be taken lightly. He is considered a giant in this field and rightfully so. These two albums are just a small example of his catalog. If you are interested and want to check out more, I would suggest just spinning the wheel and throwing a dart. Wherever it lands is a worthwhile starting place.

    best
    Michael
    Last edited by neuroticdog; 2 Weeks Ago at 11:21 PM.
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    Thanks for posting these Dhomont pieces. I bought everything of his I could find in stores back when I would travel to various cities to shop record stores, back when there were lots of record stores, back when those stores would carry this kind of music, etc., etc.... I guess I need to try to order directly from ElectroCD as I did in the 90's. But then I'd want to buy a ton of other composers' CD's, too, which is tough when you have a family.

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    Quote Originally Posted by soundsweird View Post
    Thanks for posting these Dhomont pieces. I bought everything of his I could find in stores back when I would travel to various cities to shop record stores, back when there were lots of record stores, back when those stores would carry this kind of music, etc., etc.... I guess I need to try to order directly from ElectroCD as I did in the 90's. But then I'd want to buy a ton of other composers' CD's, too, which is tough when you have a family.
    Hi SW! Thanks for reading, I know it was a long one but really wanted to do a side by side of an earlier album with a recent one. Dhomont is one of, if not the only one left that has been around long enough to see the technology advance at a pace that is so rapid. I'm sure some of these younger guys will see it too, and most likely won't have to wait as long as Dhomont did.

    I'm sure the "life happens" problem (problem ???) you describe affects the great majority of people on this board. Personally, it's just me and my wife (and a couple of 4 legged creatures belonging to the "arf" genus) so it may be a little easier for me to hear this stuff, when I want to, how I want to. Still, I have to pick my battles, for instance since we downsized to a 2 bedroom apartment about 6 years ago the chances of me cranking Xenakis in 5.1 are slim. I have Natasha Barrett discs that are in 5.1 that I have been dying to play "at volume" but something tells me the condo association would be knocking at my door so I have to dial it back a little. Re. Barrett, she uses ambisonics and many of her pieces are recorded binaurally so...through earbuds they are really something else. I'll probably review a few of her releases next.

    I am perfectly fine listening with a decent pair of earbuds (and these Senn's that I have are only about $30 and sound amazing) but, as I mentioned previously, I augment that experience with a DAC/headphone amp which I'll continue to say is a gamechanger for me.

    I dont know if you are into downloads, but the downloads at electrocd are reasonably priced and they have tons available. If something i want is in surround, I'll buy the physical, but if it's not...i'll do the high quality download they offer.

    Also, I'm not sure if you are aware, but INA Grm now has a bandcamp page. They just started so only have about 10 items available but they seem to be releasing things at a very regular cadence. They are blitzing Francois Bayle (to bad I have pretty much everything by him) so if you ever wanted to explore him, this is a pretty affordable way to do it. They are also releasing things by Guy Reibel, Jean Schwartz and Christian Zanesi. Since I have little to none by these composers I'm in heaven right now with this! The Zanesi they just released is a mind blower too, I think people here would like it. I live for their next batch!

    Anyway, rambling...and I'll stop here

    Thanks again for reading and commenting!

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

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    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    Wow, so much cool stuff, and me completely unaware! I'll check out that bandcamp page, I like the Zanesi. No, I don't do downloads, I don't even own a computer, but I can listen to music on computers here at work and at the mother's house when I'm taking care of my daughter 4 days a week. I am able to listen to loud music late at night when I get home from work, which is nice. But being 67, broke, and having a wild 5-year old (obviously "unplanned") to take care of on my days off is just insane. I've only bought one album since the pandemic began. Keep the music coming, and thanks again!

  19. #19
    Boo! walt's Avatar
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    Jim O'Rourke just released a 4 cd set of "electro-acoustic" music.Perhaps he was inspired by his mastering of Roland Kayn's tapes, who knows.This seemed interesting so i ordered it from Uncle Steve at Wayside(haven't received it yet).This may float yer boat.

    https://www.sonoris.org/product/jim-...rn-roving-eye/
    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

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    Quote Originally Posted by walt View Post
    Jim O'Rourke just released a 4 cd set of "electro-acoustic" music.Perhaps he was inspired by his mastering of Roland Kayn's tapes, who knows.This seemed interesting so i ordered it from Uncle Steve at Wayside(haven't received it yet).This may float yer boat.

    https://www.sonoris.org/product/jim-...rn-roving-eye/
    It absolutely does float the proverbial boat!! I'm 5 minutes in on the 16 minute sample on the Sonoris site and loving it already. I'd be curious to know what kind of spectral morphologies (a term I just learned recently and plan on using at my next cocktail party as I stroke my goatee and clean my horned rim glasses...basically sound changes) happen over the course of 4 cd's. After you listen to the 4 discs, if you are of the mind, please comment further.

    Thanks for the alert on this one!!

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

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    Natasha Barrett – Isostasie (2002; empreintes DIGITALes)

    Natasha Barrett paints with sound…but the color of her canvas is black.

    After not hearing this wonderful release for several years, I recently went back and revisited much of her catalog (through headphones) and was amazed at the, lets call it 3-D’ness of this release as well as the other empreintes DIGITALes release Bouteilles de Klein from 2010. The sense of multi-dimensionality in these recordings (and others not on this label) is at first curious, as in “wow, this is unusual” but then quickly graduates to utter fascination and childlike marvel at the sound tableau that is laid out in front, above, below and behind you.

    I mean, this stuff is totally surreal! What’s interesting to me is, as much as Ms Barrett seems to live and breath technology, her sound sources are primarily natural and elemental. Reading some of the notes on her website/blog she’s not afraid to go out into the world to capture the environment as field recordings. Some of these excursions sound downright risky. The longest piece on this record, Viva la Selva! takes us on an 18 minute sonic trip through a Central American rainforest. Incorporeal/intangible sounds seem to approach the listener from all directions. Human sounds are sometimes substituted for animal sounds, and the distinction is often blurred. The rain forest at night sounds at once inviting, and at the same time menacing. The spatiality of it all is astounding.



    Speaking of spatiality, this is a quality that turns up in most of her music. I opened this write-up by saying she paints on a black surface. I say this because the sensory perceptions that this listener gets while experiencing her music seems to come from some dark landscape and not from any particular direction in space. In the piece The Utility of Space, human voice and other indeterminate sounds appear to be materializing from a pitch black velvet source, only to be momentarily illuminated to allow the brain to register that they are even there. My favorite piece on the album Red snow has so many sonic easter eggs that delight the listener upon discovery it’s almost overkill. Between all the micro sounds that are spinning around the 3 dimensional sound stage and the more organic earthly sounds like footsteps in crunchy snow…the mind just struggles to keep up with it all.



    The shorter pieces on this album are no less appealing. The opening 3 works form a trilogy entitled Three Fictions and each presents the listener to a different micro climate or meteorological event. Upon these backdrops, the composer added a whispered female voice that imbues a phantasmagorical/mystical quality to the piece. The whispered voice takes shape out of nowhere with nothing concrete holding it in place…a whisp of nothingness that somehow forms itself upon the listeners psyche, if only for a few seconds before disintegrating into something less that it’s molecular structure…forever.

    This is music that does not reveal itself completely on the first, or for that matter the tenth listening. Instead, each visit back to these works is like listening to it fresh. New sounds that you swear you’ve never heard before appear out of nowhere. One can only relax and let it wash over you. If you are a fan of ambisonic or binaural recordings, recommending Natasha Barrett will be an easy sell. If you are a more seasoned Acousmatic listener but have never heard her, I would suggest running (not walking) to your favorite vender and take the plunge. Careful headphone listening is strongly recommended. The composer makes ample use of deep, subsonic frequencies. Personally, from a guy who likes to listen to Acousmatic music at fairly high volumes, Barretts music doesn’t require this at all. In fact, as a word of caution, these deep (not bassy, but DEEP) sounds can really do a number on headphones or earbuds. Lower volume is in order here, and it in no way takes away from the enjoyment of the experience. Without headphones, a subwoofer will work wonders. Isostasie is a fantastic point of departure! I plan on doing a future write up of Bouteilles de Klein soon.

    best
    Michael
    Last edited by neuroticdog; 1 Week Ago at 05:55 PM.
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    Arturo Parra – Parr(A)cousmatique (2002; empreintes DIGITALes)

    This album was a grand experiment that went exceedingly…right! As the story goes, classical guitarist Parra (and a very accomplished one at that as this album ably shows) approached five Acousmatic composers and asked them to create a work for which he would then mix himself in creating a hybrid piece. With the exception of D'or et de lumiére where he partnered with fellow Acousmanaught Mauricio Bejarano, the partnerships with Dhomont, Gobeil and Normandeau were also recorded as stand alone pieces within their own catalog and can be heard on other records. The Stéphane Roy piece seems to have been recorded specifically for this release.

    Full disclosure, when I bought this record about 15 years ago, I didn’t bother learning about how it came into being, I just thought it was really interesting to hear (what I thought was) an electronically processed classical guitar. It was something very new and fresh sounding to me back then because it had all the qualities I was looking for in an Acousmatic record. Dramatic, mysterious sounds rushing inwards, backwards, whirling all around the sound stage that I mistakenly thought were all processed from the classical guitar as the only sound source. There is a point to me mentioning this, which I’ll get to in a second…but I had no idea he was working with some of the preeminent sound pioneers of the time.

    Well obviously I was (more than a) tad wrong here. The point of all this being…Parra inserted himself over the Acousmatic backdrop in such a natural, organic way that my ears were led to believe that everything being heard was coming from one source, his guitar. Fast forward to now…remembering how excellent this album was I decided to write about it, which lead me to the liner notes. I was completely taken off guard when I found out who his collaborators were. Stéphane Roy, Francis Dhomont, Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau and the above mentioned Bejarano, well Mr. Parra sure knows how to pick em, right? The first four are very highly regarded in the Canadian corner of the field and, while I was not familiar with Bejarano, judging from his contribution I think I probably should be.

    Knowing now the “truth” of this album, my regard for it has GREATLY increased. I’m now listening to it in a different light, with a different mindset. First of all, I’m amazed at how Parra must have composed his part over the tape. Careful listening reveals how he must have storyboarded everything out. I now hear the naked, unprocessed, Spanish tinged acoustic guitar having a dialog with the manipulated taped sounds. Not only is his playing reactive, but it’s also proactive. It belongs there. He never overpowers the Acousmatic sounds, instead the tape and guitar are very equal partners. I think the whole is equal, if not greater than the parts here. Given that some of these composers also used these pieces as stand alone tracks on their own records, I realize I’m giving Parra very high praise. Deservedly so in my opinion.

    Additionally, Parra’s playing skills are exemplary. Speed demon flamenco runs are everywhere, extended techniques like scraping, general guitar neck torture and “sick” notes are just where they need to be and totally compliment the taped portion. Everything he does is in service to his partners, and visa versa…the whole thing just works perfectly.

    Kicking off the album is La basilique fantome (The phantom basilica) which is the combo with Stéphane Roy. Roy spins up some ghostly textures that queues some elegantly played Spanish guitar figures. Nothing to dark and foreboding here, but just enough quiet unease and tension to create the mood the title suggests. The piece ends with Roy ratcheting up the intensity quite a bit with a nearly overpowering drone prompting some dynamically equal guitar work from Parra, brilliant all the way though!

    The second piece, D'or et de lumiére (Gold and light) is a pairing with Mauricio Bejarano. Bejarano’s taped input is probably the most abstract of all the works on this album, the sounds he uses are varied and random. Parra’s ability to seamlessly meld his playing into this tapestry is quite the testament to not only his playing talent, but his imagination as well. This piece is full of clicks, scrapes, extended guitar techniques and micro sounds. Parts are quite pastoral and very melodic only to be subsumed into a maelstrom of avant-noise. Close, and numerous listens will pay off immensely.

    Next we have the dazzling Sol y sombra…L’espace des spectres (Sun and shadow…Ghosts over the ring) with Francis Dhomont. As if things weren’t’ interesting enough, a new level is reached here. I find it difficult to dissect each composers contribution in isolation, instead, taken as a whole…this piece just soars on wings of pure energy. I hate to resort to cheesy metaphors but every time I hear this it’s like holding on for dear life as your magic carpet takes flight over a technicolor infused psychotropic Catalonian landscape. Strap in, close your eyes and try not to freak out…sorry, no refunds.

    Soledad (Solitude) with Gilles Gobeil allows you to catch your breath, but only for a little while because you soon realize that you are in a darker realm. A possible soundtrack for Willian Hope Hodgson’s weird fiction novel The Night Land may be a good analog here. Silence is used to good effect on this piece, and when Gobeil breaks it with his “ opening of the crypt” sonics, images of a haunted landscape are unavoidable. At points, the silence gives way to passages of pure pandemonium which Parra wildly solo’s over creating a seemingly unstoppable wall of dark energy.

    All this is a great segue to the final tour de force, L’envers du temps (The other side of time) with Robert Normandeau. The dread filled silence in the previous piece gives way to a veritable tornado of studio processed sonorities and inventive guitar heroics from Parra. This piece also appears on Normandeau’s own album Figures (under the original name Ellipse) of which you can see my previous review here: https://avantmusicnews.com/2021/01/2...tes-digitales/ L’envers du temps acts as an all out sprint to the finish line for this excellent album and always leaves a smile on my face. High energy doesn’t even begin to describe it as Parra seems to be reaching outside of himself to muster every ounce of energy he has to keep pace with the tape. I have to mention the final 15 seconds of this piece acts as a bolded exclamation mark just to drive it all home.

    Parr(A)cousmatique works for me on all levels. In this age of collaboration, I would love to see empreintes DIGITALes organize more partnerships like this culled from their huge roster of artists. Unfortunately I was unable to find any suitable links to hear the full versions of these pieces but one can hear samples at the electrocd site. https://electrocd.com/en/album/2324/...arrcousmatique This album receives a table pounding recommendation from me, not just for Acousmatic music fans but lovers of guitar as well.

    Best
    Michael
    Last edited by neuroticdog; 6 Days Ago at 07:25 PM.
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    Excellent write up Mike. So intrigued I went out and purchased it. Will listen today.

    Cheers!
    Larry

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    Quote Originally Posted by zappaeverafter View Post
    Excellent write up Mike. So intrigued I went out and purchased it. Will listen today.

    Cheers!
    Larry

    Larry!

    Thanks...I think you'll really like it. If you can, please listen though your favorite headgear

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

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by zappaeverafter View Post
    Excellent write up Mike. So intrigued I went out and purchased it. Will listen today.

    Cheers!
    Seconded.
    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

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