Le Dernier Présent
CANADA empreintesDIGITALes IMED 15133 CD (2015)
At the end of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman Incorporated, readers learned of arch rival Ra’s al Ghul’s secret stock of super-foetuses, cloned from the caped crusader’s genes and gestating for some future Battle Royale. On the strength of this latest batch from electroacoustic label empreintes DIGITALes, of whom ample note has been made here, a similar programme seems to be well underway in deepest French Canada, with a plot to inundate listeners with award-winning, electroacoustic composer-pedagogues.
Georges Forget is the latest of these luminaries to alight upon these pages, following a trail unremarkable only among his peers: schooled to PhD level in Bordeaux and Quebec, scooping up awards along the way, and moonlighting for stage and screen while teaching electroacoustic composition at his alma mater. The journeys in these pieces (mostly from 2008) are suggestive of an ambition that can blast through shield doors; a ferocity evident in ‘Metal en Bouche’ (Metal in Mouth), which detonates millions of charges at stifling, oceanic depths; its claustrophobic paranoia constituting a debt to Wolfgang Petersen’s epic adaptation of Das Boot.
If Forget favours high-minded literary extracts over lucid description of his sound sources, he still shares a passion for the elements, especially water and metal. This he appeases by sticking a mic in everything from sea waves to the kitchen sink and capturing the frothing tension that ensues.
Peaks may be difficult to detect in these careening escapades, but a telling reference appears in his notes on the WWII (account)-inspired ‘Orages d’acier’ (Storm of Steel) in which he refers in both sound and text to the ‘moments (in battle) where violence gets so intense it becomes hallucinating and stripped of any emotion… separated by long stretches of emptiness’, the corresponding result is an alternation between harrowing, ballistic frenzy and scenes of dead air that lashes together emotions such as revelry, violence and horror as definitively as anywhere else on this fine collection.
Séquences et Tropes
CANADA empreintesDIGITALes IMED 15135 CD (2015)
Science and strategy define Adrian Moore’s 3D warfare and his inter-/inner-galactic travel, much of which takes place behind the veil of fog or darkness. But far from being cold and calculated, these four piece elicit the supernatural wonder of good ballet or a sudden plot twist. Like much acousmatic music, his pieces approach sensory phenomena as portals to a unified field, decelerating, filtering or otherwise transforming sounds to alter perception/conception of their natures and our vantage point to one either planetary or atomic in magnitude.
While grand in scope, openers ‘Battle’ and ‘Counterattack’ are not as explosive as might be expected, balancing both halves of the word ‘warcraft’ in their demonstrations of the grand choreography of well-co-ordinated armies via masterful manipulation of ‘”scenes”, “feints” and “attacks”’ within multichannel space, resulting in corresponding episodes of subterfuge and sudden ambush. American cinema may have gulled us into believing that victory lies solely in gung ho bravado, but Moore’s bewildering stratagem draws strength from Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz, keeping pace kinetic and unreadable.
Spaces outer and inner are examined in ‘Nebula Sequence’ and ‘Strings and Tropes’, the former marked by startling accelerations and serene spells breaking the sense of near-constant motion amid ‘clouds of swirling dust and gas’, all of which arise from such mundane ingredients as rocks and ball bearings. I’m reminded of the peregrinations of the gestalt-mind protagonist of Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker as it tears through galaxies at the speed of enlightenment, witnessing the births and deaths of civilisations and constellations along the way; by and by coming to recognise the immeasurable intelligence of the stellar bodies. This living universe is just as evident in the dense and magnified vibrations of ‘Strings and Tropes’ – the last of these majestic works – in which the listener shrinks to the size of an atom to listen to the titular strings as if they had the proportions of a nebula. Thus we encounter the more fascinating properties of a potentially paint-drying instrumental solo.
PORTUGAL CRÓNICA 097-2015 CD (2015)
Position is both key and title to this satisfying collection consisting largely of deep, tone/drone-based improvisations instigated by Dutch composer Martijn Tellinga in locations as disparate as Australia, Argentina and the Netherlands. Titles such as ‘Three Modulators, for Trombones’ might inform us as to the apparatus in use, but the performance (or listening) is explicitly defined by the acoustic space in which the novel combination of three trombonists make their foray throughout the performance. With similar inquisitiveness, two musicians circulate the venue for an unannounced performance in ‘Truth, Exercises For a Listener’, handheld recorders brimming with the sounds of chattering audience members.
Correspondingly, the music veers from immediate and involving to frustratingly distant, the exploratory nature of the performances demanding a willingness to tune into the delicate relationship between sound and space, which isn’t always easy: the closer ‘Positions for those involved’ – an interactive piece for audience members – lacks any of the excitement one might have intimated from such a spontaneous arrangement. Fortunately, virtuous editing shears these recordings of the painful emptiness of space and purpose that often leaves improvised performances dull and directionless.