Reinier van Houdt, Igitur Carbon Copies, Switzerland, Hallow Ground, vinyl HG1807 (2018)
Based on an apparently unfinished work of Gothic prose by 19th-century French writer Stephane Mallarme, in which chance and destiny find apparent common ground in the main character’s self-annihilation, this album is a serene and stately if slightly sinister presentation of meditative ambient electronic music mixed with readings of the English-language text by poet / musician and fellow Current 93 member David Tibet and fragments of noise, found sound, whispered ghost voices and lost music recordings whose titles and creators may no longer be known. While the whole recording is divided into ten tracks, it’s best heard as one continuous work: the whole collage unscrolls continuously and there does appear to be a definite flow, though this may exist entirely in the listener’s mind.
The major sonic achievement of this work is to suggest that there’s much more happening beneath the surface of the ongoing sound tapestry. Tibet’s monotone narration gives the work a slightly anxious, even tense mood appropriate to a crime thriller. The album’s highlight track “Descent” does give the impression of a giant yet delicately constructed and fragile machine skeleton floating through space in a state of slow disintegration. In the last few minutes of the album, the sounds can be a bit scary and in parts almost unbearable but a sense of serenity is maintained throughout and the work ends on a tranquil and moderately bright note.
To be honest, I find Tibet’s narration quite unnecessary: outside France, and maybe even within, not everyone will be familiar with Mallarme’s work, let alone “Igitur”. By itself, the music stands well enough alone and if any readings of the French writer’s work were needed, they could have been done by the voices that come and go in the background of the soundtrack. There are some very interesting sounds here and apart from the narration the recording is relaxing. Perhaps that isn’t quite the effect van Houdt was looking for.