Atlas Epileptic

Pierre-André Arcand

… intriguing. Splendid E-Zine, USA

… a testimony to his ever-curious, constantly adventurous approach to music creation. The WholeNote, Canada

Audio: “It looped back into itself and constantly mutated.” —W Gibson

Atlas Epileptic represents for Pierre-André Arcand a new cycle in the continuity of what is called audio art, sound poetry, music, non-music, acoustic, electronic, digital. He brings in the voice, the Resonant book, some other found or invented instruments, processed by multi-effects and the digital Macchina ricordi [MRN], a visual and sonic evolution generator. It is used in live performance to sample and structure the sounds produced on the spot. The MRN can also process audio files, fixed sounds. And so were produced The gene of speech and Atlas epileptic. Samples were taken in his previous works. Metamusic. Finally, Portuaire, an older piece made with the analogical MR finds its place in the tonality of the final triptych.

“The linearity. To withdraw from it would be illusory. Here it fights simultaneity introduced by repetition and accumulation. A lancinance in the ceaseless recall of the sonic elements.” — Éliane Saint-Arnaud

Video: liquid crystals interpretors. Clips, animation and installations. “The texture of liquid crystal display reminds more of a painting than of a photography.” — Sturgis

Working with low resolution video, as on this VCD, one is necessarily confronted with a stronger presence of the pixels which the compression stresses. The vagueness, the granular, the textures, the structure in checkerboard are then taken into account. The light and noises of the video image become object of investigation. Besides, filming directly the LCD screen or the cathode ray tube helps to switch to the abstract. Moultécrans (N-Square screen) and Framexhibition are new examples of this evolution. Otherwise, the content of clips refer to Eros and Thanatos, to a heterogeneous blisfulness. The image and the sound remain independent in their conception and are joined in the end on the basis of a general relationship of tone or atmosphere. Sometimes the image anticipates the sound, sometimes the sound anticipates the image.

This first publication on Ambiances Magnétiques, while being an object in itself, offers several faces of PA Arcand: the sonosaurus, the singer, the performer, the DJ, the visual poet and installer.

CD + Video-CD (AM 127)



  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 127
  • 2004
  • UCC 771028112722
  • Total duration: 118:23
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 65 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press

Two Extremes of Oral Sound Art

René Van Peer, Musicworks, no. 94, March 1, 2006

These recent CDs of Canadian sound poets Paul Dutton and Pierre-André Arcand show two artists operating in the same field, but at virtually opposite ends. While Dutton’s work is basically acoustic, being rooted primarily in the amazingly virtuosic command he has of his speech organ and the cavities directly connected to it, Arcand squeezes his voice through all manner of electronics for his pieces. Dutton’s work is as pure and austere as you can get. On Arcand’s Atlas Epileptic the voice is not the be-all and end-all as on Dutton’s album, but rather a starting point for hypnotic sonic excursions.


Sarah Zachrich, Splendid E-Zine, March 25, 2005

Atlas Epileptic is a multimedia experience; it comes with two discs, one of audio and one containing abstract videos (“visual poetry”, as Québécois performance artist Pierre-André Arcand refers to it) preceded by their cryptic, rather clumsily animated titles: Dividing by zero is good; Le Muezzin de Mayabunder (“The Prayer Crier of Mayabunder”); Nature Morte. Like the audio, Arcand’s videos are more atmospheric than articulate, but he conveys a wide tonal range. You can make what you will of the multiple neon-blue-hued television screens in Moultécrans, the expanding and contracting circle of daylight in Framexhibition (paired, interestingly enough, with a track that sounds like a railroad-crossing bell) or the kaleidoscopic close-ups of water glasses and (I think) dildos in L’érotique du désert. The audio disc contains several of the tracks from the video; it doesn’t engage multiple senses, so it’s not as engaging; on the other hand, it’s not as seizure-inducing, either. Paradoxal opens the audio disc with spare, echoing slaps of world percussion as a hoary male voice-Arcand? — speaks, in French, of the “boucle”. The vocal, like the instrumental, is sliced, diced and set to repeat with variations. The album’s first half seems dedicated to more percussive sounds, while the latter part is more “melodic”— not that there are any melodies, per se, but the last few tracks boast undulating synths ( and something accordionlike (Portuaire).

Atlas Epileptic’s liner notes include a quote from cyberpunk novelist William Gibson: “It looped back into itself and constantly mutated.” It’s easy to see why Arcand chose that particular line: slowly-metamorphosing loops are a stated theme of his work. Like Gibson’s books, Arcand’s work is arcane and occasionally incomprehensible, but obscurely intriguing.

… intriguing.


Alison Melville, The WholeNote, no. 10:6, March 1, 2005

Another in the excellent series of recordings by Ambiances Magnétiques, this recording “offers several faces of Arcand: sonosaurus, singer, performer, DJ, visual poet and installer.” The package contains both audio and video CDs. Arcand is a multi-media mage whose sound-world is a colourful and often mesmerizing one, and the nine tracks on the audio CD are a testimony to his ever-curious, constantly adventurous approach to music creation. Using a visual and sonic evolution generator (Macchina Ricordi) to manipulate the sounds of his voice and “found/invented” instruments, Arcand weaves a remarkable and ever-changing web of sound.

As for the video component of this project, its a frequently hypnotic addition to the mix. Its segments are entertainingly clever, each radically different from the last, provocative examples of how extraordinary human creativity can be. While on one hand this project is time-consuming to absorb, and likely not for all tastes, it’s challenging and always compelling.

One small complaint: I wish that more information about this “sonosaurus” and his work had been included with the actual package, rather than on the record label’s website. I already spend enough time at a computer screen, and not everyone has one at their immediate disposal.

… a testimony to his ever-curious, constantly adventurous approach to music creation.


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 63, March 1, 2005

Le nouveau travail du metteur en son, poète sonore québécois, qu’est Pierre-Andre Arcand se presente a la fois comme un cd audio, Boucles sur boucles en constante mutation et un cd video Cristaux liquides interpréteurs. La référence à John Cage (Atlas Eclipticalis 1961) n’est évidemment pas fortuite. Dans cette pièce du compositeur américain, les parties instrumentales, au nombre de quatre-vingt six, sont constituées de sons uniques et de constellations de sons, plus ou moins longs et déterminent des événements sonores. Pierre-Andre Arcand en utilisant notamment son logiciel Macchina Ricordi (après avoir troqué son système analogique contre un système numérique) accumule, lui, des boucles sonores évolutives (souvent issues d’anciens enregistrements), les déconstruit, les confronte entre eux pour créer une masse sonore dense, tantôt élégante, tantôt plus bruitiste, toujours fascinante. Par ailleurs, son logiciel lui permet aussi d’agir sur les images vidéo (à basse résolution) récupérées, souvent à partir de transformations graphiques, qu’il recompose de manière plus ou moins aléatoire.

… une masse sonore dense, tantôt élégante, tantôt plus bruitiste, toujours fascinante.


Nicola Catalano, Rumore, March 1, 2005

Se la memoria non ci inganna Atlas Epileptic dovrebbe essere l’ottavo album in carriera per il performer interdisciplinare Pierre-André Arcand. Dunque un veterano che opera tra design (elettro)acustico, sound-art e poesia sonora, una impervia zona di frontiera della quale questo doppio album (CD audio + CD video) rende opportuna testimonianza. Macinando loop su loop, frammento su frammento, minuzia su minuzia attraverso uno splendido marchingegno autocostruito (la Macchina Ricordi, compatto assemblaggio generativo tre-in-uno di software, campionatore e mixer in grado di processare al tempo stesso suoni ed immagini), l’autore canadese costruisce un edificio babelico e dai toni rugginosi, sovrapposizioni, sfalsamenti, lenti decadimenti della materia fonica.


Tom Schulte, Outsight, January 1, 2005

On this CD and DVD combination, Pierre-André Arcand presents an audio disc of his rugged little electroacoustic pieces to which we can imagine a world of images. The video CD that accompanies (playable in DVD players) is a set of wholly different works to which images are attached. These images tend to be basic, blurry, patterned and repetitive. What these sounds need, for the experimental and challenging content is surreal, is unsettling visions like something Brothers Quay would conceive of to match these mechanical rhythms and nonmusical sounds. When someone takes the MTV flash and drama of a 2-minute video film with the jarring, freeing exercise of sonic mutation like this, then we will see into a world of new art.


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 454, December 22, 2004

The name of Pierre-André Arcand is to me an old one, one from the time I was serving beer at an arts-centre. Arcand participated in one exhibition with a piece by telephone. Over the years I have been pleasentely surprised by his work, which is really something that crosses the territory of art and music, but also crosses soundpoetry and mechanical music. Much of his works deals with loops, repeating sounds. Usually, per piece, he has a bunch of the same loops running back and forth, but through some sort of system, these loops are in constant, but subtle decay.

Maybe nowadays this decay comes from a self-built Max/msp patch; at least the cover indicates such a thing. On the video CD that comes with this package we see how this works out visually. Some of these films are short, consisting of one line, and last only a couple of seconds. Others multiply the image and a genius play arises of the various mutations of the image. The music here seems new, and this is not the visual component of the audio CD.

Over the years Arcand has built a small but strong oeuvre of similar works, which sounds unlike anything else in the field of sound poetry - at least to my knowledge. Atlas Epileptic is the strongest work to date and perhaps also the most complete one, for it’s combination of audio and video.

Over the years Arcand has built a small but strong oeuvre of similar works, which sounds unlike anything else in the field of sound poetry…


Enrico Bettinello, Blow Up, no. 79, December 1, 2004

Attivissima, la scena canadese testimoniata dalla Ambiances Magnetiques, ci presenta il compositore e chitarrista Tim Brady in un ambizioso lavoro per chitarra elettrica, campionatore e orchestra. Più che un concerto, ci spiega nel libretto, l’attitudine è quella sinfonica, con le varie parti a integrarsi e l’elettronica a fare da volano – sia nel filtraggio degli strumenti acustici, sia nell’uso del campionatore come espansione dell’aspetto chitarristico. Si toccano diverse atmosfere – alcune felicemente allucinatorie, altre leggermente didascaliche–e il lavoro è di ottimo livello. Bello anche il più breve Frame 1.(7+)

Di impronta chiaramente jazzistica è invece Jardin D’Exil dell’Ensemble En Pièces guidato dal sassofonista Philippe Lauzier e dal pianista Alexandre Grogg e splendidamente a suo agio sul filo dell’equilibrio tra struttura e libertà, avvicinandosi a molti spunti del jazz europeo più avanzato.(7)

Doppio – cd audio + cd video–è Atlas Epileptic dell’artista multiforme Pierre-André Arcand, poeta visuale, dj, performer. Il titolo è già fantastico. L’uso di vari espedienti, tra cui il software Macchina Ricordi, la manipolazione di campionamenti di precedenti lavori, il trattamento della voce, rende il disco [e il suo fratello “visuale”] un interessantissimo susseguirsi di esperienze. (8)


François Couture, AllMusic, November 10, 2004

This is certainly not a typical Ambiances Magnétiques release, but definitely a typical one for sound/video artist Pierre-André Arcand, whose previous efforts came out on the Quebec City-based imprint OhmEditions. Atlas Epileptic picks where Transfuge + Transfuge hadleft, down to reproducing the twin set format of audio CD + video CD. Where Transfuge was a transitional work, Atlas Epileptic is (sound-wise) much more assured and convincing. Arcand is using the same (a)technological toys, from his atavistic sounding book and ashtray to his “macchina ricordi” (a self-programmed piece of Max/MSP software). Once again the music evolves through a process of transformative accretionary loops, but this time around the sound palette is significantly more varied and the music more dynamicand responsive. Transfuge was a rather cold disc, while Atlas Epileptic displays a certain warmth, even though the listener still feels trapped inside an enormous machine built for the sole purpose offunctioning. Arcand’s heavily treated voice is still an important soundsource and is responsible for any Industrial Coil, Nurse with Wound, Einsturzende Neubauten references the press has made. But Arcand’s soundworld is much more abstract, self-contained and enigmatic than even the more experimental disciples of that genre. The audio CD presents nine pieces (total duration: 69 minutes). The 10-minute title track and the 16-minute Un Casino à la Radio are the highlights and represent some of theartist’s finest works. The video CD (viewable as a CD-Rom or DVD) contains 11 pieces for a total duration of 49 minutes. The music component, while not being exactly the same as what is found on disc 1, uses the same soundelements and at times consists of edits or reworkings of the same tracks.Arcand’s video art is much more limited than his music. His image bank is restricted to only a few themes (kaleidoscopes, objects with facial features, penises, and computer screens). His fondness for making videocaptures of live computer screens sketches an interesting paradox: the analog capture of digital displays as if they were paintings. But otherwise his experimental videos are of limited appeal. Their repetitiveness tends to over shadow the fact that the music is actually much more varied. Taken in small doses (like Le Muezzin de Mayabunder or Moultécrans, these videos set the music in different, stimulating contexts. In larger helpings Dividing by Zero is Good, L’Érotique du Désert, they become a “viewing experience” one is not keen on repeating.


Thierry Bissonnette, Voir, September 23, 2004

Tout ne serait que boucles évolutives, semble suggérer l’artiste sonore Pierre-André Arcand. C’est pour mieux exploiter cette perspective qu’il a construit la Macchina Ricordi, petit logiciel offert à qui le veut sur le Web et qui permet de faire vivre ses propres boucles à partir de sons divers. Non seulement Arcand a-t-il rassemblé une série d’expérimentations parentes dans cet Atlas, mais on retrouve sur le second disque une exploration visuelle à partir de ces sons et procédés récursifs. Les amateurs de manipulation bruitiste trouveront là un radicalisme digne de Nurse With Wound ou de Mount Vernon Astral Temple, de même que cette faculté de faire vivre les éructations de machines.

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