Lärmheim is the Geneva-born musician Henri De Saussure, and Cent Soleils is his first release. He not only composed, played and produced it, but it’s released on his own Lärmheim label. It’s an intense – at times bewildering – set of hyper-modernist percussion-based pieces, abstract instrumentals that display his own deep knowledge of percussion history but also pay close attention to experimental studio techniques. While some of the pieces may resemble highly intelligent and very advanced dance music, his “beats” are so crazy and unsuitable for the dancefloor that it’s clear we must pay attention elsewhere. In short, his synthesised hammer blows and sequenced electronic noise bear only a passing similarity to your avant-Techno records.
It’s not all manic percussion and distorted noise (though a lot of it is), and there are occasional droney instrumentals that induce a queasy feeling with their sickening tones and slightly overdone air of faded pomp. Then there’s his production technique, which makes much use of distortion, the application of guitar pedals in places where you’d least expect it, and a general effort to push reprocessed sounds as far as possible. This can result in very extreme (and sometimes quite irritating) sounds that are close to harsh noise music, but they’re very clearly “composed” and considered, not the random doodlings of someone with a hard drive, an audio editor, and no sense of responsibility. Lärmheim’s studio work is done, not in a free-wheeling “anything goes” sort of lark, but pursued with a heavy determination and a strong sense of control-freakery. His interest in self-determination apparently even extends to the mastering of his own CDs. I’d guess Henri De Saussure is a fellow who knows exactly what he wants, and how to get it. In fact one look at his moody portrait photograph persuades me that this assessment has some validity.
Lärmheim seems to have come into music production mainly from his music studies in Geneva, Lausanne, and Bern. Through his training, he learned about the indigenous drumming of North India and jazz drumming, but it was in Bern where he was let loose in the recording studio world and discovered the joys of computer programming, electronic music, and the complexities of contemporary classical composition. Since his graduation, the world will never be the same. A strong debut, undoubtedly, but also quite a demanding listen; enough ideas for two albums here, in some ways. And I suspect he’s just getting started. From 30 November 2015.