An uncluttered agglomeration

From 17 October 2012 we have this very wonderful curio by Emmanuel Mailly sent to us from his village in the North of France (possibly Saint-Aubin). He writes to us that he makes “music noisy but smart”. I’m about halfway into this delightful album and so far I don’t hear much out-and-out noise (with the possible exception of ‘Agglomerat’, which goes fairly nuts with the echo chamber and the tape manipulation), but I do hear plenty of ideas and invention. La Dynastie Des Polygones (NO LABEL) is a truly unique bric-a-brac item where the music is assembled from performances, tapes and overdubs done with exquisite care. But it’s not over-crowded bric-a-brac, nor is it overly “controlled”. Mailly plays all the instruments and does “programming”, which may imply some computer elements in the mix, but what I’m struck by so far is his restraint and abstemious approach to his methodology. I’ve heard my fair share of records where solo geniuses see fit to overdub multiple layers into oblivion, resulting in a clotted mess on the finished album where competing frequencies destroy each other in the internecine trench warfare of droning sludge. By contrast, M. Mailly has a refreshing lack of clutter in his musical space; instruments stand out; sounds can be heard, and they complement each other. The performances are eccentric, beautiful, simple, and clean. There are a lot of acoustic instruments, “crazy” or excessive effects are kept to a minimum, and good-natured humour abounds at every turn. I’d like to think if we were fortunate enough to be invited to his apartment we would find every fine art objet and wall-hanging arranged in perfect harmony with the small, minimal pieces of furniture. And then we would see his 15 stuffed monkeys sitting in jars in the corner. At least one track title, ‘Un Jardin Japonias’, indicates the miniaturist nature of his musical endeavours, where planning/organisation go hand in hand with a willingness to let the roots and grasses grow wild as they may.

If asked to convey more about these musical diamonds which sparkle for precious moments and then vanish in the night, I suppose I might grasp at metaphors for daydreaming and lucid visions; that fleeting instant of insight which can arise from a strong meditative chain of thought. This intangible aspect of the human brain has rarely been translated into audio form so successfully. One might almost think Mailly had invented the long wished-for “sonic helmet” which a composer need only slip over his cranium and plug into a complex automatic device in order to realise 15 glorious symphonies before lunchtime. I’m trying to get across the very natural feeling of these compositions, which are as perfect as wild flowers growing on a mountainside under a bright blue sky. If you’re a fan of The Faust Tapes, then I assume you favour a record whose very grooves can’t really contain the vast number of mad ideas that are packed into its seething vinyl surface. But I suspect Faust sweated blood (and nearly killed their poor engineer) in the sheer effort of making that record. Emmanuel Mailly makes it seem so easy. There’s an honesty and uncontrived simplicity to the way this musical half-mad balminess has been created that is very winning and companionable. On dirait un nouvel Pierre Bastien. Marc Gérenton provided the cover image which suggests just the right combination of nature and artifice – a surrealist bric-a-brac tree, growing sticks, human hands, a guitar, animal horns, and Magritte-like lathe-turned furnishings. At the hour that I write these lines, Mailly only appears to have two albums available, but he’s been practising his own unique brand of experimental music for 20 years. The aim appears to be “exposing” his sounds, performing in public and not concealing his methods, getting participants involved in the very process. A photo on his website shows you how children, at least, “get it” instantly. So should you.

Emmanuel Mailly

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