Glass Tears

Here’s a team-up of two important French experimenters, Pascal Comelade and Marc Hurtado. Their album Larme Secrete (KLANGGALERIE gg334) is a delight, entertaining and accessible, while still stamped with the hallmark sounds and methods of both creators.

Pascal Comelade is a firm favourite with me personally and I would always recommend his approachable music to anyone, even though it’s not especially easy to purchase just now. One starting point might be the Vinyl On Demand box set called My Degeneration (though this too is rare), as it compiles his early work as Fluence as well as some of his radical 1980s cassettes. There’s also a fine compilation on Zut-O-Piste called Back To Schizo (1975 – 1983); the excerpts from Paralelo, one of his most rewarding sets, should whet your appetite for more. Comelade has been an innovator in electronic music, and achieved some unique statements, but he makes it seem deceptively simple. His music has a clarity and transparency which I suspect is hard-won; though he claims to be influenced by Richard Pinhas and Heldon, he doesn’t exhibit the same sort of histrionics as Pinhas, nor feel compelled to beef up his simple tunes with guitar bombast or excessive technique. True, he took a more acoustic pathway with his later work, but there’s still the same honesty and clarity in whatever he turns his hand to. This applies to Larme Secrete, where he’s credited with keyboards and synths – specifically, piano, electronic organ, and the EMS/AKS synthis, and he creates strong instrumental frameworks making much use of repetition. As to that, one has often been tempted to bring in comparisons with Philip Glass, but Comelade is much more intuitive in his music and his work emerges as less stilted and programmatic than that of Glass.

Marc Hurtado is probably about the last person I’d have expected to find in a collaborative role with Comelade. On a Venn diagram, the only thing they have in common is being French. He was the co-founder (with brother Eric) of Étant Donnés, a group which began life in the late 1970s and trod a much more murky and industrial-leaning path than Comelade. To be honest I never derived much pleasure from what few records I heard, even though one could sense the artistry and commitment involved in this difficult project and anyone who takes their name from a Marcel Duchamp artwork can’t be all bad. I was turned around when I heard Marc Hurtado teaming up with Vomir, and then Z’EV, both artists whom I like, and somehow the equation started to make a bit more sense; Hurtado doesn’t exactly sing, but neither is he simply a spoken-word poet, and what he does with his vocals (and added studio echo) is pretty powerful and unique, at times bordering on a form of sound poetry or pushing into a dark surrealist mode with its obscure symbols and twisted imagery.

With today’s record – incidentally the first time these two creators have worked together – we might just have an ideal combination, as the melodic forms and simple repetitions in Comelade’s music really help to sweeten the deal, making Hurtado’s work 70% more listenable. Heck, at times he even approaches something approaching a recognisable song form. Some scattered observations; (a) more than once on this record, the duo resemble Suicide, which is not a bad thing at all (indeed Hurtado has collaborated with Alan Vega in the past), and not just because it’s a synth-and-voice thing. They have tapped into the spirit of that group, finding the spot suitable to deliver visions of haunted urban doom through remorseless pulsations. (b) The music hits on a coveted “krautrock” vibe on the track ‘Infini’, thanks to help from guitarist Xarim Areste and drummer Samy Surfer, and the group play a great unvarying riff for over ten mins, allowing Comelade to supply sublime organ drones. (c) For evidence of the general altruistic trend of the album, click on to ‘Or’ – a romantic piano ballad from Comelade, in which context Hurtado reveals a sensitive side (who knew!).

Presented in a digipak with a nice booklet of colour abstract images by Hurtado (overprinted with his texts), this is highly recommended. From 10 June 2020.