The latest from Paris-based a/v artist and teacher Joachim Montessuis is played on a “mechanical electroacoustic hurdy-gurdy with four strings and sliders to play an adjustable chord in sustained twisted tones, drones and complex overtones + one duet with Gaspar Claus on cello.” It’s hivelike and warps in a convex and concave way as it plays on. Chords are sustained, elongated with a tingling reverb that sends chills from the title cut on.
The hurdy-gurdy in case you are unaware, is a queer, ancient stringed instrument with a crank that produces this dramatic, full-width sound between a violin and an organ. I’m sure one has been deployed for the soundtrack of a half dozen (or many more) cult-classic horror flicks. Montessuis manages to tame the beast into a contemporary drone that is quite mesmerizing, the equivalent of staring long enough that a certain stasis is achieved, one that has a psychedelic radiance. A track like Autour du Bourdon achieves this with a striking minimalist approach, and lots of patience.
The aforementioned piece with Gaspar Claus differs in the bridging of cello nestling into the mix. His accents are achey-breaky and remind me of Hitchcock for some unbeknownst reason, grinding, churning, so twisted in freefall. The pairing is perfectly bookended between an otherwise cerebral mix that makes the listener consider the fate of a deer staring into the proverbial headlights – stunted – floating in unconsciousness for fleeting moments.
There’s something ‘heroic’ here too, something I cannot quite put my thumb on, but it’s embedded and/or subliminal – the more you listen the more you read into the patterns in the vital wall of sound.
This is the perfect complement to the previous in that its far more sycophantic from a darkly dramatic angle. Electroacoustic composer Gaël Segalen‘s Sofia Says is perfectly peculiar, brimming with tight abstractions, intermediate percussion coming from what sounds like an industrial wasteland. This is a true vision, a language unto itself.
As an introduction to this unique French sound artist I most definitely find her in the midst of soundscapes that fall between graceful and quite dank and dingy in some of the passages here. The work bathes in its encoded spaces that if included, these field recordings are hyper covert. But it remains distinguished by it’s free flow of situational effects presented so fluidly, like a dreamstate where the synapses are slightly ajar. Just have a listen to Mountain West to test that theory.
“Natural sounds surface through synthetic and rhythmic sonic masses, the essential presence of the living. There are voices emerging from this album, signals that are suddenly raised – invitation, alert, incantation, exhortation.”
On Cortege, there is this yielding pitch and low circulating, dual-channel shudders. It’s slightly unnerving, but builds a delightful tension that swells and drifts. There’s this tweaked expanse, partly mechanical with natural sounds layered top and bottom. In the final minutes it sputters from earshot like the squeal from a trainyard or weary jazz trombone. I’ll See You Again takes this out like a hypnotically dispersed jam session ala the early 70’s – but take a deep dive and perhaps this is the belly of some kind of manufacturing plant. These anti-tropes repeat, overlap and offer a disorienting, cavernous diversion. Pure kinesthesia.