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Review

Giuseppe Pisano, Toneshift, October 17, 2018
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 Presse

David Berezan is a notorious and well acclaimed Canadian electroacoustic composer. Teaching at the University of Manchester, where he also founded Mantis: a loudspeakers orchestra designed to perform electroacoustic music, he boasts an exceptional background. Everything in his career, from his studies with legendary personalities such as Jonty Harrison up to the many residences in famous studios and institutions around the globe, becomes solid grounding which places his well rounded, and clear aesthetic statements in the form of beautiful compositions that display all the skills and craft behind the sculpting of each sound.

Cycle nautique is by all means no different from his other records. Released like the previous ones on Empreintes DIGITALes, a label that seriously needs no presentation being home for the most iconic electroacoustic composers in history (Denis Smalley, Francis Dhomont, Åke Parmerud, Michel Chion to name a few), this work is straight walking the path to become a modern classic.

The album is mostly a collection of compositions produced 2011 and 2017, bound together by the reference to the sea world. Boats, ships, docks and the unexplored underwater depths blend together to give us an all-inclusive overview of the different aspects of the marine sound, and the many diverse and well defined moments we go through while listening provide us with abstract perceptions that feel somehow dystopian but, holding strong bonds to the sound sources, do not result in a proper Utopia.

The use of high quality, crispy and fresh sound materials together with David’s undoubted skill in the use of granular synthesis, keep his work unsullied, untouched by popular culture, hip musical tricks or references to a particular music wave or scene. What we listen to is a true and pure sound art piece, perfect in his balance. A fashionable and timeless evergreen, like a tailor-made suit. But Cycle nautique is not only an exceptionally well-composed work, with an interesting distribution of spectral components, a good balance of nice and full sound washes, overwhelming ambiences and sparse constellations — it is also an impressive demonstration of good spatial distribution.

Throughout this work, David plays with different planes of proximity and rapidly shifts between them integrating both heavily processed sound materials and plain field recordings. Even listening over only a pair of stereo loudspeakers we can appreciate the very complex sound environment he creates and the way we feel completely immersed, and I can’t dare imagining how empowered these compositions would sound by being performed over more complex speaker systems for spatialization.

A special mention would go to my favourite piece of the batch, Offshore. A great example of processing acoustic instruments’ sounds, being in fact constructed entirely with bass clarinet recordings of Marij van Gorkom and turned into streams, winds and far vessels buffs, then into stones clattering and clinking together. And again with pointy bio-luminescent creatures inhabiting the bottom of the sea, while sonars and morse signals deploy communication among the humans exploring that darkness.

… an exceptionally well-composed work…

Review

Frans de Waard, Vital, no. 1153, October 15, 2018
Monday, October 15, 2018 Presse

[…] Of course eRikm, as he loves to spell his name, is someone who is no stranger to these pages, ever since he first surfaced as a turntablist in the mid 90s. He works as an improviser, expanded to using vinyl, CD, mini discs and finds his own narrative, which is not unlike that of say Luc Ferrari. A particular highlight was his LP L’Art de la fuite (Vital Weekly 1000), even when that was an earlier work. The three pieces here deal with the past, his own past, in Switzerland, which he calls ’his other homeland’, but also using a traditional Icelandic text in the first piece Draugalimur, meaning ’phantom limb’. In that piece eRikm combines field recordings with text and with some instrumental sounds, while in Poudre he uses many recordings of new year’s fireworks in Berlin, with it’s many reflections of the buildings and perhaps also from history. In the third piece, L’aire de la Moure 2 there is also a text, by Paul Eluard and I must admit reading the description didn’t make things clearer for me. Here there are quite a few field recordings, mainly birds I believe, along with insects and wind, with what seems to me a minimum of processing here and there, but not a lot, or at least: not throughout the entirety of the piece. eRikm doesn’t follow Ferrari’s more linear approach to the use of field recordings but it seems to me it is all bit more of an anarchist approach; see where sounds fit and then use them accordingly, which I would think is the best approach. This too is not really the sort of things one expected from Empreintes Digitales, and for instance more at home on Gruenrekorder, but here too I thought the label does a smart move and venture into something new. In the past I may have been a bit (too) sceptical, but with these two the label is back on track. For eRikm I would say this is another highlight.

… I would say this is another highlight.

Trouver la beauté dans les sons sauvages

Philippe Papineau, Le Devoir, October 15, 2018
Monday, October 15, 2018 Presse

Le compositeur, explorateur du son et pionnier de la musique électroacoustique Francis Dhomont a toujours voulu faire des opéras, «mais sans chanteurs, sans instruments. Des musiques qui, néanmoins, racontent une histoire. Pour moi, c’est évident: tous les éléments techniques du son et de la musique que je peux connaître et que j’ai approfondis n’ont qu’un but: traduire une pensée, une émotion.»

Un homme modeste, Francis Dhomont, à qui on parvient néanmoins à soutirer ceci: «J’étais moi-même très convaincu d’avoir quelque chose d’intéressant à dire, et donc je l’ai dit avec assez de conviction pour convaincre d’autres personnes, professeurs et étudiants, qui ont fait croître cette musique. À ma manière, et avec plusieurs autres, j’ai contribué à faire de Montréal — enfin, du Québec en général, mais de Montréal en particulier — un centre important de la musique électroacoustique.»

Et c’est pour cela que le festival Akousma lancera au Gesù ce soir sa quinzième édition, avec d’abord une causerie dirigée par le directeur artistique du festival, Louis Dufort, puis un concert durant lequel le compositeur français, pionnier de ces musiques pour orchestre de haut-parleurs, présentera en première nord-américaine une sélection de ses oeuvres récentes – qui ne comprendra cependant pas Le cri du Choucas, terminée il y a deux ans, dernier volet d’un triptyque amorcé en 1982 avec Sous le regard d’un soleil noir, possiblement sa plus importante composition. «C’est une oeuvre qui a beaucoup compté pour moi, explique Dhomont. Comme Forêt profonde et Le cri du Choucas, elle a pour base des écrits de psychanalyse; ce sont les oeuvres qui, je crois, me représentent le mieux.»

Retour à Montréal

En vérité, c’est comme si l’organisation dédiait la quinzième édition d’Akousma à Francis Dhomont, de retour au Québec après neuf ans d’absence. «Ça me fait très plaisir, d’abord parce j’ai beaucoup d’amis ici, beaucoup d’anciens étudiants, beaucoup de souvenirs de la Faculté», explique celui qui a enseigné la musique à l’Université de Montréal de 1980 à 1996. Le compositeur, qui aura 92 ans le 2 novembre prochain — «Naître le jour de la fête des morts!» souligne-t-il en riant —, continue d’enrichir son oeuvre de nouvelles explorations dans cet univers sonore qu’il a largement défriché, celui des musiques sur support pour orchestre de haut-parleurs.

Lorsqu’il est arrivé à Montréal en 1978 après être passé par le célèbre Groupe de recherches musicales de Paris fondé vingt ans plus tôt par le père de la musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, il a vite fait connaissance avec les fondateurs de l’Association pour la création et la recherche électroacoustiques du Québec, parmi lesquels la compositrice et pédagogue Marcelle Deschênes.

«À la Faculté, on venait d’ouvrir une classe de musique électroacoustique. Marcelle m’a demandé quelque temps après si j’accepterais de donner quelques cours, puis quelques autres, et j’ai fini par en donner beaucoup. Et c’était très bien. J’ai eu beaucoup de plaisir parce que j’ai eu affaire à des étudiants très motivés et très sympathiques», dont son ami Robert Normandeau, compositeur chevronné devenu professeur à la Faculté de musique de l’UdeM et grand spécialiste de l’oeuvre de Dhomont, dont l’influence sur le développement des musiques acousmatiques et électroacoustiques au Québec fut déterminante.

Donner vie à la musique

«J’ai apporté une chose, ici, et c’est [la notion de] la spatialisation de la musique, qui était une technique essentiellement française», abonde le maître, vif et généreux malgré le décalage horaire. La spatialisation sonore, où l’art de travailler le son pour «donner l’impression de décrire des trajectoires dans l’espace, de se situer dans un univers sonore en relief», pour reprendre le mot du compositeur français Edgard Varèse, un autre pionnier dans le domaine.

«Dès mon arrivée, j’ai commencé à donner de petites présentations, avec un petit nombre de haut-parleurs; on commençait avec pas grand-chose, mais c’était déjà un début, poursuit Dhomont. Ça permettait de donner à cette musique de haut-parleurs un aspect moins statique, une vie. Et progressivement, cette façon de projeter la musique électroacoustique est devenue très actuelle ici, alors je suis très fier d’avoir semé cette petite graine qui a poussé.»

Et qui a même réussi à pousser hors du registre des musiques dites savantes, estime Francis Dhomont. «Il y a une chose dans certaines musiques populaires, notamment dans la musique techno: c’est que ces musiciens utilisent des instruments et des équipements qui ressemblent beaucoup à ce que nous utilisons nous-mêmes dans nos studios. Donc, on a tendance à retrouver certains sons qui nous sont communs. Mais il y a aussi certains compositeurs de ces musiques qui connaissent le travail des créateurs électroacoustiques. Ils n’en font pas eux-mêmes, mais ils connaissent les oeuvres et s’en inspirent, quelquefois.»

«Dans la musique électroacoustique, comme on prend tous les sons qui existent dans la nature, autant ceux qui existent que ceux qu’on peut créer avec des appareils, tous ces sons peuvent se rapprocher de ce qu’on appelle le bruit. Certes, ce sont des sons un peu plus sauvages, mais on peut les organiser pour qu’ils soient plus agréables à l’oreille, ou plus agressifs, si c’est bien l’intention. Donc, il faut évacuer l’idée de départ que c’est du bruit. Il faut arriver à admettre que l’on peut faire de la musique avec autre chose que des instruments d’orchestre. Si on arrive à franchir cet obstacle, alors je pense qu’on peut vraiment trouver de la beauté.»

À ma manière, et avec plusieurs autres, j’ai contribué à faire de Montréal […] un centre important de la musique électroacoustique.

Review

Kevin Press, Badd Press, October 15, 2018
Monday, October 15, 2018 Presse

Montréal-based composer Monique Jean’s take on electroacoustic music has been described as “engaging a present that happens now.” Credit François Couture with that sharply written phrase. Indeed, there is an abrasiveness to her work that feels urgent and forceful. Her new release Troubles features two vivid examples.

The first is T.A.G. The title is an acronym for trottoir, asphalte, goudron, which translate as sidewalk, asphalt, tar. The 2013 composition is a study of demonstrators and the dynamics of crowds.

Unlike Amethyst Seer’s excellent 2017 work Protest, this doesn’t feature an actual recording of a demo. Instead, Jean interprets the subject matter. In doing so, she delivers a more accessible piece of music.

All the tension and fluidity of motion you’d expect from a protest-themed work is there. But its relatively vague reference points encourage appreciation of the work on a more emotional level. This is a consequential, timely effort — one that resonates even more deeply four years after its composition.

The second half of the album features Jean’s 2009/2011 piece Out of Joint. In the album’s notes, she describes it as “an essay in sound hybridization on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the various silver screen adaptations, stagings and rewrites it inspired through time.”

Again, her decision to avoid a literal interpretation serves to broaden the work’s appeal. Yes it is about Macbeth. But it also works as a piece about iterations or interpretations.

Big themes. But they’re all within Jean’s reach. Her work has an outsized quality that — with a bit of promotion — could have influence beyond the confines of electroacoustic fandom.

Her work has an outsized quality…

Review

Frans de Waard, Vital, no. 1153, October 15, 2018
Monday, October 15, 2018 Presse

Since more than twenty-five years Empreintes Digitales is probably the leading label when it comes to computer based electro-acoustic music, mostly composed and performed by conservatorium skilled composers. Oddly enough I don’t see a reference to those in the short biography that is printed on the cover of the album by Monique Jean. She was selected by several competitions (which I think is THE thing in this musical area) and played international concerts and festivals. She has here two pieces of which the first, T.A.G., which stands for ’trottoir, asphalte, goudron’ (sidewalk, asphalt and tar) is inspired by “crowds of demonstration” and she says that sounds are “mainly synthesized”, which I found hard to believe. I was more thinking about heavily processed field recordings, certainly in the opening section of the piece that sounded like car tyres screeching. I might be wrong of course. As the piece evolved it became more obvious that there are indeed synthesized sounds used and even some more orchestral ones towards the end. It’s a massive piece, crowded with many sounds, as crowded as the pavement of the inner city perhaps. This is quite a powerful piece of music. The other piece here is Out Of Joint, and it is a “sound hybridization on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the various silver screen adaptations, stagings and rewrites it inspired through time” — whatever that means but “what I am trying to do instead is to develop a form that operates through grafts of time, interpretations, meanings and references”. Which I guess wasn’t helpful either. Here the piece is also computer based I would think as well as dense, slightly distorted from time to time, a massive narrative perhaps; again I could have been fooled it included field recordings as I distinctly heard some birds. Both pieces are quite good and seemed removed from the more usual glissandi approach that was common with releases on this label some years ago. Either the composers have moved on, or the label did. […]

This is quite a powerful piece of music.

Review

TJ Norris, Toneshift, October 6, 2018
Saturday, October 6, 2018 Presse

Mistpouffers is a selection of three compositions completed between 2014-16, composed by French artist and improviser eRikm. Each piece runs approximately 17-18 minutes in length with two based on 8-channel fixed medium and one in stereo. Opening with Draugalimur where, poof like smoke, the setting is a quiet distant storm, some electronic squiggles and free-floating static. This is eRikm working in an atmosphere where a pin could be heard dropping, that is until a narrator like a public radio host, in French, reads from a text. The wind howls and electro-waves are emitted. While listening I gaze upon the cover image of a cliffside that starts to resemble a human skull. No you are not seeing things, like a mirage — it’s an in-situ illusion, only emphasized by a military jet flying past, from ear to ear as someone gasps for air. This dichotomy between air space and breathlessness is likely key to the narrative. The eerie unexpectedness here is quite palpable.

Sonic boom? By occupying the space with layered field recordings, simple thing like chewing, and rummaging — with a silky drone and changing percussive parameters eRikm has developed a psycho-social space that is as inventive as it is cinematic. The whispers, the hive drone, the bouncing punctuation, all make his acoustic theatrics rife for live presentation, and perfect for visual listeners. Moving on to Poudre, which opens in darkness to creaking of chairs, or perhaps thunderclap or is it fireworks, or gunfire? The question mark here is the tension. With even the slight laughter heard int he mostly engaged crowd scene it would be menacing one way, and exhilarating another. But it seems to walk that fine line. The title translates to powder (and in gun powder) and this work does seem to float on air with the spirit of a nighttime curfew. It’s singular shots are disarming so to speak — “the bombs bursting in air” and so on. In wartime these echoes have a cerebral resonance that is unmistakable.

Just after midpoint this layered field recording sounds like either a grande finale or a full-on battle. It’s actually quite disturbing, it’s chaotic imprint, relentless. At one point it’s literally just a wash of savage white noise. But the reverie switches up its candor on L’aire de la Moure 2. There are shadows of a dark kingdom interrupted by a happily chirping winged beast. The intermittent grey drone casts and draws as these treated bird samples are deployed like abstract illusions. eRikm has concocted a blend of granular electronics, a female narrator and low flying planes that zoom from air shot. The tingling microsound invades as though it’s evaporating over the spoken word.

It’s an atonal radio play that seems to be collecting data in a laboratory. Small actions like pulling a topper from a cask, as well as elongated high tones create a focused format for deep listening — all ears on the speaker, and though I do not speak much français my ears can translate this as a scanner of the mind. Static like fire, and a series of slingshot thwapping are a peculiar combination alongside a deep bird caw. With so many constant variables you’d think this recording would be a schizo delusion but it’s not at all, it keeps your minds ear constantly pricked within this composer’s cosmic adventure.

The tingling microsound invades as though it’s evaporating over the spoken word.

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