Descent into the Maelstrom by Philippe Petit

Philippe Petit | Descent into the Maelstrom
Opa-Loka (CD/DL)

Inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Descent into the Maelstrom is the latest in a long line of often stimulating and off-center recordings by Philippe Petit. And surprise, this is a whole new ball of wax that is more than slightly off the rails.

From the first note of this trio of tracks it’s as though you are being set up for a wile ride with pings, animated voice bursts, tape loops, truncated frenzy and a whole lot more. Descent runs this wild track for twenty-three minutes, like a mumble-jumble of words and phrases. This is a raw soundtrack for mirroring the state of the world right now, trapped in the middle of societal, environmental and political flux. Petit wastes no time here, as this brims with inventive and hypnotic noises and wax/wane effects.

This also could be mistaken for bits and pieces of a variety of cult flick soundtracks pieced together and stretched to the nth degree. I so appreciate that amid the buzz and chaos that there are moments steeped in undead chatter and muted contemplation. I almost think I’m hearing Middle Eastern folk music within the digitization of vocal treatments and sonic sinewaves. The way in which this is contorted it hints at a molten air raid signal. In the last three minutes the sound dies down though as things become more minimal, and there seems to be a haunting of some sort taking place.

In the middle of two separate twenty-minute plus works is an untitled short piece (or its title is ““) that is dialing in frequencies, tuning perhaps, perhaps radio waves. Either way, this transmission is perfectly poised as an intermittent passage between two places: Descent and Into The Maelstrom. As for the latter, at least at first the listener will be treated to an immersive piece where contemporary alchemy meets the futuristic space of archetypal machinations, just bent into a new position.

All ears on deck, strapped in as this is one bumpy ride. Signals go! But suddenly this dips into a strange majestic flourish tailgated by additional tweeked-out signal play and grumbles – the whole has an underbelly full of visual aesthetics inscribed via cinema. But one can sense the weight of the ‘descent’ – it becomes palpable not only by way of a chord drop, but by the feeling of heaviness that pulsates and bloats. I see Petit as one of our great collagists alongside someone like Jason Forrest, Christian Marclay and others that dare, and this is a sonic reminder.


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