Jim Denley (flute, alto sax, objects) and Tour de Bras label honcho Éric Normand (electric bass, objects) do not believe in mere descriptions or pseudo-philosophical explanations to justify an improvisation. Released one year after a first collection of duets ( Plant, on Smeraldina-Rima), Plant II offers five joint studies in the dissection and/or enhancement of the humming + buzzing + rattling + squealing properties of mechanisms set in motion via unorthodox tampering.
Let’s be clear from the start: the respect of predetermined “aesthetic laws” — possibly tending to an immediate agreement with someone’s ears — is not a priority for the Australian/Quebecoise pair. Their hands-on approach implies a radical exploitation of the theoretical conflicts within sonic diversity, the subsurface tensions between abnormal upper partials and tiny agglomerations of noisy components originating the sort of interference that may even irritate a sizable chunk of unacquainted audience.
In such a context, the instrumental identities are often camouflaged, if not out-and-out destroyed. And when the timbres are recognizable, the feeling is still closer to a rather admirable “couldn’t-care-less-about-palatability” quasi-punk attitude. However, when Denley and Normand unleash the invisible forces inhabiting the darkest caves of acoustic filthiness, an impressive array of magnified micro-events appears as a completely new world. It’s a place where categories aren’t required, the actual nature of an uglier soundwave exposing its cantankerous nakedness without restraint, a pitiless disfigurement of what is familiar revealing at last a praiseworthy artistic rectitude.
Léa Boudreau’s new album Chaos contrôlé includes sounds created solely through the ‘bending’ of circuits in electronic toys. The music in Chaos contrôlé is glitchy and paroxysmal in an extremely attention-grabbing way. While the compositional process used in this project would seem to pose significant limitations, this does not impede Boudreau in any way: she manages to create unbelievably imaginative sonic objects and to retain great control in manipulating these sounds.
The sounds in the album are at once playful, colorful, and abrasive—somewhat like a musical embodiment of Trenton Doyle Hancock’s artwork. Aggressive percussive forces, paired with children’s songs, create a dark and sardonic tone. While this comical element is present throughout the album, Boudreau does more than simply express a type of creepy humor. The album addresses themes of childhood, blending the perspectives of child and parent by including titles that imply a parent’s advice to his or her child, and other titles and musical elements that express a child’s wonder. Some of the themes are historically specific, while others are universal — Boudreau addresses anxieties and naiveté.
While the incorporation of toys and distorted children’s songs is novel and interesting in this album, many other evocative textures emerge throughout the work. Retro synthesizers and video game sounds interact and are layered upon one another, creating visual and cultural associations. Computerized, swarm-like textures in Amies imaginaires (et autres incomprises) seem reminiscent of the impulsions from Stockhausen’s Gesang Der Jünglinge. This album is a ‘song of the youth’ in a different way however, in its incorporation of toys and children’s songs, and more generally in Boudreau’s fresh and relevant perspective. Amid the digital chaos of the album, there are beautiful waning moments, like in How to navigate through social anxiety in 3 easy steps. In this piece, contemplative harmonies are meditated on, and there are even some impressionistic sonorities that quell the musical landscape.
Overall, Chaos contrôlé is a decidedly experimental album that expands the classical electronic music canon in a very interesting way. This is an exciting and imaginative project that I am sure I will return to many times in the future.