After a period of silence my favourite 3” label, the one which in many ways defines the medium for me, returns. These doses of about 20 minute musique concrète provide stimulating and very varied acoustic pleasure - from complex tape manipulation through to subtle electronica. For this latest release, Eric M has been given access to the whole “Cinema pour l’oreille” series and created a new work from extracts.
Across the four tracks there are some moments where the source can just about be recognised (this is especially so with the ducks in the fourth part) but on the whole they have been processed and fragmented, to create a glitchy piece, reminiscent of Samartzis or Thomas. The sounds tend towards the higher pitch and rapid change - fragments come and go, the tracks build in intensity and have moments of quiet, stuttering putters and voices ghosting in.
The movements on the disk are long, short, long, short, although the activity and treatments within tracks are similar. The long (about 7 minutes) first features clicking in one speaker which builds, while voice fragments emerge from the other. The squeaking builds in intensity, accompanied by whining and piano parts, before a crackling end. Part two continues with crackles and beeps, while the longest third part has a more varied structure. It opens with voices jumping and an almost mechanical putter which grows and then stops. An almost silent middle section (low volume drones and pulses) follows before some very rapid sound pieces - birds, clicks, organs - dance across the soundspace. A gentler final section features swirling segments and birdsounds. The high tones used and the rapidity make this an unsettling listen, but also very dramatic. A fitting continuation of the series - a nice challenge of manageable proportions.
I don’t usually quote press releases, but I read this after I wrote the above, to which it adds some balance and mystification. “Frame is the result of a work that originates in the audio CD medium itself: ‘Anomalie numérique et du support lui-même’ (‘Digital anomaly and anomaly of the medium itself’); it was produced within the specific frame of hijacking the CDs from the Metamkine “Cinéma pour l’oreille” series. The work is composed of four parts that can alternately be played back randomly. Within the footprints from the series can be found, as well as a whole set of improvisations for three CD players and effects. All the elements were compiled, re-edited on MiniDisc and then played back randomly in various ways. Various forms of superimposition were useful afterward to the pace of development of the track: 1. Acoustic sound recordings were made during a performance in the studio. 2. Work on one or many jammed frames, produced by the CD players (themselves “bip.cd” CD players). 3. Further developments of jammed frames from specific parts and varying in duration from short to longer, played back using one or more CD players, as well as some work following the same principle, applied to the whole set of audio devices this time, and played back at various speeds. Some of the sound materials result from various manipulations of the CD medium itself, such as using oil, glue, etc., in order to distort (or fault?) the mirror and divert the trajectory of the laser. Different parts were mixed and filtered using a sampler, recorded back on MiniDisc and delay, and then played back using the techniques described earlier. I think it’s needless to add that the final result was edited using a well-prepared sampler. This was for the technical side. A Sunday of boredom, gray and rainy, in a room on the fifth floor of a suburban tower with fixed partitions, tearing themselves at the slightest moanings of an anxious baobab: that is for the content and the artistic direction of the project.”
Erik M is a young French musician who has a CD out on the French Sonoris label, and played turntables in Otomo Yoshihide’s Les Sculpteurs de Vinyl supergroup (“Memory & Money” CD on Stupeur et Trompette! 1997). This CD is a work that uses as its sound sources the Cinema pour l’oreille 3” CDs on the Metamkine label. This is more than just a mix CD - the sound that dominates most is that of the CD disc skip, or “disc jam,” the startling moment when a glitch on the surface of the disc makes the music stop on a single stuttering tone. The disc skip just emphasizes the digital nature of the compact disc medium - the music, either as it bounces uncontrollably, or becomes stuck on one single loop of noise, is audibly reduced to streaming bits of unintelligible data. The resulting tracks resemble a twitchy abstract insect symphony, full of busy, seemingly random sound actions. The disc starts off very sparse - short snippets of sound followed by seconds of silence. The sounds grow in density but remain restrained as they play out within what is obviously a carefully planned structure. An impressive array of stereo effects is displayed within these 18 minutes of music, divided into 4 tracks. Track 3, the longest piece at 9:51 features a stuttering drone that emerges out of silence and dissipates into another uneasy silence, and then expands into some high speed sounds, panning, and disc skips. I haven’t heard many of the Metamkine discs this is based on (003 through 025) so I cannot say how discernible the music in the originals is. Those of us who admire musique concrète for its disorienting power will find much to enjoy on this disc.