The Nomad has a Territory

French player Thierry Monnier has show up here before as a member of La Morte Young and Sun Stabbed, both modern avant-guitar cronk bands whose work is slowly starting to gel for this listener. He’s here today with a solo album Temps Espace (DOUBTFUL SOUNDS doubt15), which he describes somewhat self-effacingly as “DIY musique concrète”. What he means by this is he’s not a member of any school, program, university or laboratory that sponsors this music, and has had to work his way into the “genre” using his own saddle leather. He also means that he used the equipment available to him at the time, which I suppose implies that he doesn’t have access to the expensive studio equipment that the flash boys at INA-GRM can get their paws onto. A number of years separate the two sides of Temps Espace, ‘Intermezzo’ dating back to 2003 and ‘Interfluve’ from 2015. At this point his notes start turning a little cryptic and it’s far from clear what the source materials are, but he will admit to using a four-track cassette recorder to do his processing. ‘Intermezzo’ might use radio static or white noise, ‘Interfluve’ sounds more like amplifier feedback and/or an electric organ. Both are characterised by their extremes of duration, their slow pace, and Monnier’s evident love of distortion, and “erosion” as he calls it – perhaps referring to tape dropouts, a fault which delights him. On the back cover we have, I think, quotes from French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, and the geographer Max Derruau, whose words may be bolstering up the sense behind these opaque, mesmeric pieces. But generally I find Monnier leaves the questions open to interpretation and isn’t too keen on explaining it all to the reader. I like a musician (or any artist) who doesn’t quite know what their motivation is, but they feel it with a passion. Limited vinyl edition comes with two equally puzzling postcards; was mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi. An excellent item! From 7th September 2017.

David Maranha is the notable Portuguese composer who also has a drone art-group called Osso Exótico. We’ve dug his compositions such as Noe’s Lullaby from 2002, a fine exemplar of classical minimally-inspired music performed by his group including old partner Manuel Mota. Maranha is also a whizz with the Hammond organ, and there’s a fine duo recording he made with Z’EV in 2012 called Obsidiana, a truly blackened drone of fuzz. Today we have the record Cai-Bem (TANUKI RECORDS #28), performed by Maranha leading a quartet of players, including Manuel Mota, Margarida Garcia, and Miguel Abras. As part of his quest to do new things, all the players change from their usual instrument and have to play something they’re not really very familiar with. This means that the lovely organ playing is done by Garcia, while Maranha himself resorts to drumming and grinding his shruti box. Mota, usually heard on guitar, handles the bass. Sometimes experiments like these don’t really pan out, but Cai-Bem rings the bell more than once over both sides of its languid, denatured drone; there are several delicious moments, especially on Side One, where the whole thing feels like a rickety straw sculpture 12 feet high about to tumble over as it walks along uncertainly in a parade. And the entire ground is turning into a swamp at the same time. The press notes speak of “eerie sounds…coaxed from their unfamiliar instruments”, and likens them to other successful instances in this history of less-than-tutored playing, such as the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Another precedent I can think of would be the Arkestra on Strange Strings, or Bowie’s 1979 band on ‘Boys Keep Swinging’. Allon Kaye of Entr’acte did the cover – that’s his signature typography for sure. The first vinyl release from this Belgian label known mainly for their cassettes. From 25 September 2017.

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