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Best Albums of 2017 (Part 2)

Simon Cummings, 5:4, December 31, 2017
Sunday, December 31, 2017 Press

9. Annette Vande GorneYawar Fiesta

“… perhaps the key defining feature of Yawar Fiesta is its dramatic, fantastical interplay of both material nature and perspective, alternating between granular, cloud-like, noisy formations (often positioned in the background or periphery) and solemn declarations and intoned chanting, seemingly by a vast, intimately close chorus of voices. […] In lesser hands one would be marvelling simply at the breadth of imagination and astonishing compositional technique being demonstrated. Yet for all its unknowns and unpredictability, its wild paroxysms of austerity and elation, Yawar Fiesta cuts to the quick, and one is left gasping at the integrity and above all the intense humanity of its musical language. Everything in it is transparent and real and honest and true.” (Reviewed in September 2017.)

Best Albums of 2017 (Part 2)

Simon Cummings, 5:4, December 31, 2017
Sunday, December 31, 2017 Press

2. Natasha BarrettPuzzle Wood

Puzzle Wood is a revelation. Containing five works, four of which date from the mid-1990s, the revelatory aspects are three-fold: first, how accomplished Natasha Barrett was at this early stage in her career; second, how consistent these pieces are (aesthetically speaking) with her subsequent work; and third, how distinct and different they are from the majority of British electronic and acousmatic music being composed around that time, sounding neither remotely dated, nor in thrall to or at the mercy of the technology being used to create them. Rare indeed! And in each and every piece, Barrett’s unique, unpredictable yet organic approach to both the moment-by-moment handling of sounds as well as to their structural arrangement and distribution makes for the most vividly immersive experience. There’s something of an ambient sensibility in the way sound objects gradually acquire or deplete mass and momentum, drifting in space and meeting and melding under their own gravitational forces (particularly in 1997’s Little Animals). But equally these works exhibit a remarkable ‘demonstrative range’, from infinitesimal, quasi-static suspensions to muscular, aggressive effusions. And quite apart from any of this, they all sound completely gorgeous. Only superlatives are adequate in situations like this: this is simply some of the most jaw-droppingly fabulous electronic music I’ve ever heard.

… the most jaw-droppingly fabulous electronic music I’ve ever heard.

Best Albums of 2017 (Part 2)

Simon Cummings, 5:4, December 31, 2017
Sunday, December 31, 2017 Press

18. Benjamin ThigpenFlux

There are just two works on this disc, both of which eschew the trademark clichés that have contributed to make acousmatic music seem a tired, if not spent, force. In the four parts of still, Thigpen explores a sound palette of friction, ranging from the momentary glances of short impacts to longer stretches of rubbing and scraping. These are formed (or, seemingly, form themselves) into the kind of gritty, squally drone explorations one associates with David Jackman’s Organum. There’s a pronounced shift halfway through the third part, the introduction of drum-like thuds becoming a catalyst that transforms things into a wonderfully complex texture that fills the final part of the piece. pulse, using sounds generated by a Buchla 200 analog modular synth, is even more engrossing. Early on Thigpen explores the shimmer and judder resulting from placing frequencies beside each other, with the slow care of a scientist in a lab. This sounds simple, but the exquisite ballet of elements that results is utterly mesmerising and beautiful. The second part evokes Ryoji Ikeda in the way it converts pitches into burbling and twanging streams of data, arranged into a central climax that’s nothing short of glorious.

… the exquisite ballet of elements that results is utterly mesmerising and beautiful. […] nothing short of glorious.

Review

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, December 15, 2017
Friday, December 15, 2017 Press

The term “acousmatic” belongs to the category of verbal devices generalizing studio-conceived opuses that are difficult to brand. With empreintes DIGITALes, though, no question will arise about the trueness of that definition, the Canadian imprint having in fact released the finest materials coming from that area for countless years now.

London’s Manuella Blackburn is an electroacoustic composer and senior lecturer at Liverpool’s Hope University, her resume including prizes and acknowledgements beyond her young age. Petites étincelles presents five pieces sharing several traits, Blackburn’s main intent being the depiction of wide prospects from what she calls “barely there” sounds in a sort of “backward reductionism” process. The collection is informed by a soft-spoken complexity helping the listener to pay attention to both the logical attributes of the sequences of events and the meaningful micro-structures shaping up the textural evolution.

All of the above can be summarized in another shopworn, but still effective adjective: “ear-pleasing”. In truth, locating segments where what is heard results as less than hospitable is quite hard. Even the inexperienced could use this album as a useful starting point to increase their conversancy with such a creative domain. Sources range from Indian instruments to the ice floating in a glass of water, from clock mechanisms to camera shutters. Blackburn’s compositional skills magnify those transitory occurrences into elegantly structured music lacking the frigidity of a mere accumulation of sonic typologies. In that regard, she sweetens the concreteness of the original matters with profound electronics, perceived here as inherent harmonic auras complementing the sharpness of melodic cells and organic periodicities.

“Maturity” can rhyme with “accessibility” in rare occasions. This is one of them, and also a reminder of the hypocrisy of establishment-driven “gender equality”, a prepaid renown always preferred to genuine talent when it comes to covering female artists. This world needs more Blackburns than St Vincents.

… elegantly structured music…

Critique

Roland Torres, SilenceAndSound, December 13, 2017
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 Press

Benjamin Thigpen fait partie de ces artistes qui abordent la musique de façon viscérale, multipliant les projets à l’image de Rust aux côtés de Jean-François Laporte, Les Frères Bobine avec Stefano Bassanese ou Fluid Identities avec le violoncelliste Benjamin Carat.

Regroupant 4 titres de Still et 3 autres issus de Pulse, Flux est un concentré du savoir faire de l’artiste qui joue avec les objets pour en tirer des sons non modifiés qu’il combine via un travail sur l’amplification, la compression et l’équalisation. Son œuvre navigue sur les eaux d’une électroacoustique aux allures de mantras naturalistes bousculés par le bruit de cordes frottées et de claquements, de pierres glissant le long de nos cauchemars et de soubresauts aliénés.

Benjamin Thigpen fascine de par sa faculté à créer des pièces singulières à la familiarité dérangée, construite à coups de manipulations savamment agencées flirtant avec l’excellence de narration. On est pris dans ses pièges auditifs qui alternent agressions sonores et balades boiteuses dans les profonds recoins d’une folie nouée au creux de nos tripes. L’excellence est dans chaque recoin de cette jungle de sons accumulés, laissant apercevoir l’envers d’un décor peint aux couleurs chair, gorgé à ras bord de sensations étranges et d’ombres dissimulées. Très fortement recommandé.

Très fortement recommandé.

Ring-modulation25

Kasper T Toeplitz, Revue & Corrigée, no. 114, December 1, 2017
Friday, December 1, 2017 Press

[…] Vaggione, ça faisait un long moment que je n’avais pas entendu sa musique ni entendu parler de lui: son Fluides présente quatre pièces plutôt récentes, composées entre 2009 et 2015, et une plus ancienne, composée en 1983 – mais c’est toujours la même énergie, la même virulence de propos, les mêmes déchirures, arrêts subits, grains, et réattaques qu’on lui connaissait. Musicien né en 1943, il a rapidement intégré l’électronique à sa pensée musicale et a longtemps enseigné à Paris 8, preuve, s’il en fallait, qu’on peut proposer de la virulence et une pensée autre (et libre) dans le cadre d’un enseignement universitaire. Une musique très structurée, très pensée: on parle véritablement de composition (à l’inverse de Pauline Anna Strom qui dit que la musique lui vient «comme ça, naturellement», ce qui s’entend et se regrette, le trop-plein de naturel en art étant loin d’être garant de quoi que ce soit). Une musique puissante qui se passe de mots, une musique à expérimenter. À écouter. […]

… une musique à expérimenter. À écouter.