Unsolved Puzzles

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Various
Opensound
FRANCE FIBRR RECORDS FIBRR:013 CD

My last encounter with the France’s fine Fibrr label was their exemplary ‘scene’ survey, Nantes Is Noise: an adventurous collection of electroacoustic composition and sound art that inhabits the harsher end of the audio scale, which I’ve turned to many a time when the ears have needed clearing. The good news is that they’ve seen fit to lavish us with a similar collection: one that tends more towards collage, concrete and Olympic stretches of control room hum, with generally lower ‘noise’ levels. Among the few returners we find the ‘French electro-acoustic anarcho-poet’ (thanks Ed) and man-about-town Julien Ottavi, who’s on a mission to terrify and bewilder eardrums from a variety of line-ups, including a recent turn with K.K. Null. His neutral ‘Composition for Oscillators’ is an agreeable respite from the more deliberate activity that surrounds it, while similar success is found in the spatial tectonics of Farahnez Hatam’s ‘In The Margin Of Moments’ and the magnified electron-flow of J Milo Taylor’s ‘Spectral Traces’. Elsewhere we find a restless superfluity of ‘by-numbers’ activity, which may prompt similar restlessness over the skip button.

Beyond a mention in the news section of the Fibrr site, there’s precious little online information on this collection, though it would appear to be ideologically motivated: title and label rhetoric championing a spirit of inclusive, international collaboration with shared resources and creativity; more ‘copyleft’ than ‘copyright’ as it were. Participants include non-profit organisations from Norway, Portugal, Spain, the UK and (I think) Germany, which might lead one to anticipate a great stylistic diversity, but alas the reality is far more underwhelming; possibly by dint of expectation, but more because the spirit of sharing has brought about a pervasive homogeneity: the pan-Europeanism commemorated by over-similar cut-up conversations in Spanish, German or whatever, dunked in processed recordings of distorted doings that sound like car doors slamming in a burning warehouse. All too rare are tracks like Goodgod’s ‘Das Unheimliche’: a nerve-shredding plunge into the strummed innards of a piano flanked by war drums and power electronics, which is truer kin to the dark n’dirty denizens of Nantes Is Noise, and to which I would still direct you if you’re well-acquainted with such music as this.

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Cédric Dambrain
Subjective Slave
BELGIUM ROUGHLEDGE ROLE001CD (2013)

From searing to contemplative: ten blasts of digital noise to add nuance to as many settings, even if it all resembles an unsolved Rubik’s Cube. Cédric Dambrain’s pithy portraiture in noise-based/electroacoustic composition has the potential to alarm, soothe or both, is curt to a point and sudden in transition from one scene to another. Opener ‘Splace Genesis’ – a volcanic shower that really is as exhilarating as it can get – makes as clear a case as any while setting the standard for the aural alternation between hot and cold that follows; followed as it is by the radiant twinkle of ‘Ee Duct Con’. At the same time, it introduces one of the two chief weaknesses of this collection: the abrupt transitions that festoon the album’s first half are needlessly jarring, as though Dambrain couldn’t settle on a more suitable opening/closing strategy. Secondly, the tracks are mostly far too short for pure chewing satisfaction: averaging three to five minutes apiece, which probably won’t appease hardened noise fans; a matter exacerbated by those sudden stops. Overlook all this though and you’ll have ample fodder for a thought-cancelling, five-minute meditation or two.

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