singulum LINE_075 – etherREAL (FR)

INE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

Février 2016, le label Line sortait 2 albums, le premier de Tomas Phillips, plus expérimental, et le second de France Jobin, plus doux, plus porté sur l’ambient. Si nous avons déjà parlé de ces deux artistes, notre préférence se portera ici sur le travail de la Canadienne dont on apprécie tout particulièrement l’approche à la fois expérimentale et sensible.

Singulum est composé de 4 titres, simplement intitulés nlm et s, justement des lettres qui composent le titre de l’album. Sur la forme, on trouve 2 titres de 7-8mn enserrés entre les deux autres de 14-18mn, des durées en phase avec le style ambient du disque, dans une tendance minimale.
Commençons avec les 17mn de n, un titre sur lequel on a spontanément envie de revenir. Débutant dans un quasi silence, il dévoile progressivement des tonalités scintillantes et régulières, et quelques glitchs éraillés, fins, précis, comme des erreurs, comme si l’image sautait pendant une vidéo. Disparaissant lentement, ils nous laissent petit à petit avec une ambient minimale, les doux flottements d’une nappe synthétique.

S’il est plus court, l semble être construit selon le même schéma, avec ce qui ressemble d’abord à de réguliers accords de cordes, ponctués de petits frétillements métalliques. Mais à 2mn de la fin c’est une nappe-drone imposante qui s’installe pour un long final statique.
Plus discret, m s’appuie sur des nappes métallisées, d’abord oscillantes et lumineuses avant de se stabiliser sur une teinte plus minérale. Mais là encore, c’est l’apaisement que l’on retrouve sur un superbe final, plus classique et synthétique.

L’album se termine avec les 14mn de s qui se distingue par un son plus grave, une sorte de drone lointain qui nous fait penser au lent passage d’un avion dans le ciel. Il s’agit là du morceau le plus linéaire, le plus statique, qui retrouve la lumière sur sa deuxième moitié et l’arrivée de lents accords mélodiques. Une fin naturelle, comme un cœur qui ralentit avant de cesser de battre, concluant un superbe album.

Fabrice Allard (October 2017)

singulum LINE_075 – Musique Machine (UK)

LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

Here’s another release from the esteemed Line label, presented in its usual format: a simple, sombre, card wallet. The front has an odd, black and white image – perhaps a collage, perhaps a magnification of cells – whilst the back contains track details, and a short spiel on the release from Jobin. The spiel explains that the album was created by putting field recordings ‘through a series of editing and manipulation processes’. Singulum has four tracks, ranging from six and a half minutes in length, to nearly 17 minutes.

Given that her spiel is quite high-minded, ‘Singulum represents an unattainable goal, the process of decay while conserving a continuation of information’, and mentions Serge and Buchla modular synths amongst her tools, Jobin’s album is actually often rather conservative ambience and drone. Though that’s an observation, not a criticism. The first, and longest, track, n, slowly builds upwards and outwards from a simple loop. Whilst simple, the floaty, ethereal loop is detailed, and accompanied by glitching sounds. It builds into a piece of dreamy ambience, effortlessly creating an atmosphere that might require a reviewer to describe ‘sunlight reflecting off rippling pools’ – trite, but reasonable words for a gorgeous soundscape. As the piece progresses, the glitching sounds become bolder; crushed, and squashed sounds splinter and fragment over the lush drone. After the 10 minute mark, the drones become deeper, more resonant, before dissipating in the final minutes to reveal a looping chime, like a distant grandfather clock. The second, and shortest, work, l, again begins with looping sounds; this time, its ambient patches. These create an ambient expanse, with background burbles, and snips of sound – they really are backgrounded, too. About halfway through, an ominous drone appears, creating a more sinister tone, but also one imbued with much grandeur. This drone magnifies in strength, until it essentially smothers everything. M, the third track, follows a similar path; it begins with dreamy territories, before again building to almost overwhelmingly deep drone – with a distracting buzzing in one speaker along the way. The final piece, s, is cut from a similar cloth to the preceding tracks, but offers different readings. It starts out as a stately, measured drone, strong and warm. After a while, a repeated figure emerges over the drone, a melodic stab; this creates a tone akin to the work of Burial – the melancholy of empty urban streets at night, dirtied by litter, and cleansed by rain. It sounds like a piece of club music, slowed down, and with the beats removed – the hazy memory of the night before.

Singulum, from the packaging, suggests an album of difficult abstraction, perhaps driven by physics, and lead by high-end synth technology. However, whilst there are elements that might reflect these hardboiled things, the truth is that any sonic austerity is largely hidden, and backgrounded. The central focus of the release is much more amenable drone work, often lush and gorgeous in its simplicity. The last track, s, is particularly nice, and evocative. (The track titling is a bit of a mystery, clearly deriving from the consonants of ‘singulum’ – but where’s g?) There’s a danger, perhaps, that the album occupies a halfway house – too glitchy and odd for drone lovers, too much expansive drone for lovers of synth abstraction – but the rigour of the artist, and her tools, is felt throughout the pieces: nothing here is ever cheap or insubstantial. Like all Line releases, Singulum asks for (and deserves) close listening, and like practically every Line release I’ve heard, this is worthy of your listening.

Martin P.

RADIANCE II – Music for the Answer – A closer Listen

Music for The Answer Postcard

 

RADIANCE II Music for the Answer | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | June 2016

The subscription series is an idea that has gained traction in recent years.  With two popular series just ending (from Justin Small and William Ryan Fritch), we’re happy to introduce a brand new one: Stephan Mathieu‘s 12-part RADIANCE.  This series of monthly album releases will culminate in a limited box set that consumers can enjoy piece-by-piece as it is released.  Mathieu calls this a single “growing album” that invites “slow listening”, which is just beautiful.  We liken the opening timbres and overall concept to last year’s conceptual Sleep, the major difference being that Max Richter’s album was released all at once.

While listening to Alap for Steel Needle, Record and Theorbe, one can already sense the radiance.  These drones, punctuated by occasional plucks, shimmer like heat puddles, now-here, now-absent, seeming to fluctuate while staying in one place.  This opening salvo of the series is an effective prelude in that it establishes the level of quality without giving much away.  But what is a theorbe, one might ask?  We’ll do the Wikiwork for you: it’s a long-necked lute instrument with bass strings, primarily used in 17th and 18th century music.  This knowledge is the entry point to the album, recorded with lutist Peter Söderberg.  One might consider it the reflection of a smudge of a skeleton: a group of pitches re-recorded and looped from an early recording by Arnold Dolmetsch, interacting with live acoustics.  The plucks reappear at the end, setting up the bonus material: a two-minute classical segment and a 40-minute tape loop, the innards of the body.

The second installment, Music is the Answer, is the score to Cedric Eymenier’s film The Answer.  This time around, Mathieu teams up with France Jobin, the two offering alternating tracks that together form a whole.  (The only oddity: the sequencing of pieces out of numerical order.)  Two of Jobin’s contributions continue the dronelike theme of Alap, with additional harmonic variation; the other two dredge bell tones to the surface like echoes from a drowned church.  “The Answer VII” is the more restrained of this pair, with static loops acting as light waves.  Play “The Answer V” next, and one will hear the volume of the bells rise, as if breaking the barrier between water and air.  Electronic pings join the sonic field mid-piece, surrendering to a tonal smear by the finale.  Mathieu responds with three segments of “Sea Song” (I, IV and V), allowing for a great range of measured motion, especially in the organ-toned first.  The trailer (seen below) puts it all together; the film, a meditation on travel, has found the perfect score.

Where will RADIANCE head next?  The list of upcoming releases includes a number of intriguing titles, including albums inspired by Hieronymous Bosch, Franz Wright, Kepler and the movie Vampyr, and instruments ranging from gramophones to shortwave radios.  We’ll be keeping a close ear on this series, and we’re already looking forward to the next installment!  (Richard Allen)

singulum LINE_075 – CHAIN D.L.K – (USA-Italy)

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LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

Electronic music composers get portrayed or portray themselves as icy mannequins, ataractic or ghostly entities or robotic hybrids. Even if there’s always a reason of similar (self)portraits and more or less aware representations, a certain humanity could look like a disrupting element of such a cliche, particularly when the technical canon seems coherent to a desired idea of excellence. When Montreal-based minimalist composer and sound artist France Jobin will gradually make her way into your eardrums, she doesn’t opt for brute attacks or epic introduction, but she lets a glimmering breathe of piano tones and light electronic buzzes peep out by a strategy that you’ll be tempted to label as shy. But such a shyness got matched to a grace, that is going to magnetically attract towards her surprisingly interesting sonic world, where sonic particles gently flow till the moment they sound like sparkling a significant process in a rarefied environment. France’s way to organize these fascinating sonic particles seems to have been inspired by quantum physics: in her own words, “quantum physics inspires me to draw a parallel between the fundamental building blocks of physics, sounds and music. I put field recordings through a series of editing and manipulation processes which result in very different sounds from their origins. These manipulations affect time, timbre, harmonics and the essence of each sound, whereas composition influences how they relate to each other.”. I don’t really know how these scientific matters influenced her sound, but I’m pretty sure that she managed to find a path by which minimal electronic music can gracefully sound even more immersive than over-stuffed sonic outputs.

Vito Camarretta

singulum LINE_075 – ATTN:Magazine (UK)

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LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

Singulum arrives like a retriggered memory: not a sudden and fully-formed epiphany, but an image that emerges through a process of molecular restoration, enacted with the same painstaking patience with which memories fade to begin with. Each piece flowers from buds of grainy piano loop or photic drone, revealing slithers of harmonic context and the electronic glitches of corrupted recollection (patches of missing detail, movements conducted in jerky, half-remembered ellipsis). The appearance of a new detail results in the careful reconfiguration of the entire image. The atmosphere shifts in hue. Beautiful chords become draped in gentle shadows of dissonance, while timbres turn dull as the high frequencies fall away. The more I remember, the more my rosy nostalgia becomes tinted by tiny turbulences and traces of nausea. The memory appears differently now; forever brightened, sharpened, dimmed, decelerated. I no longer have access to the original experience. Instead, Jobin plants me within pools of transient hypothesis, adjusting the soundscape as the act of remembering quietly draws circles of speculation around the truth.

I’ve come to love the way in which Jobin introduces sound into silence. On “m”, processed field recordings enter like dawn through a curtain gap, with sound streaming gracefully into space with ever-intensifying warmth. On “s”, an electronic chord seeps in like a pool of water spreading over the floor, crawling in from the right side of the frame. She exhibits a deep, almost reverent respect for the absence of sound, and even though her gestures are gentle in execution, they are also painstakingly deliberate. Chords appear like ink dropped from a pipette, billowing across the silence in slow motion, released at an angle that consciously directs the speed and angle of travel. Sound politely asks to proceed, and silence gracefully gives way.

Jack Chuter

singulum LINE_075 – Stray Landings (UK)

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LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

If William Basinski had used an early 2000s CD Player rather than a tape reel to craft his legendary experiment in sonic decay, ‘Disintegration Loops’, it would probably have some strong parallels with Singulum. The release is the latest offering from Montreal based composer and installation artist France Jobin.

Across her rather substantial career, Jobin has displayed work in galleries everywhere from South Africa to Japan, as well as releasing on a number of different labels. Singulum sees her return to an old residence, LINE Recordings. The label has hosted the likes of Alva Noto, Mark Fell and Yves De Mey since its founding at the start of the millennium, and Jobin’s work finds a fitting home here.

Take the washing flourishes of piano across the opening track, ‘n’. Between fragile buzzes of phone-line glitch, modem scratches linger in the backdrop. Jobin also uses her drawn out structures to give shifts in the production full impact. On ‘I’, creeping arps and digitised chimes linger as long as possible before giving way to Jobin’s faintly ominous drones.

The timidly developing soundscapes of this release build up to its closing piece, ‘s’. The track makes for one of Singulum’s boldest statements, meditative pools of ambience are left void of further embellishment in an offering of streamlined introspection. Towards the tracks latter half a swelling chord makes repeat appearances; a feature that wouldn’t sound out of place in Deepchord or Fluxion’s output.

Jobin has cited quantum physics as a strong inspiration for Singulum. She uses a range of audio processing tools to remove her carefully selected field recordings from their original context. In this pursuit, Jobin has endeavored to highlight just how flexible sampling materials can be, creating a release which lingers, its subtle yet graceful motifs rattling around the brain for hours after the final track.

Theo Darton-Moore

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singulum LINE_075 – Brainwashed (USA)

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Singulum

LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

Like her debut release, Valence (2012), Montreal’s France Jobin’s work is from the traditional school of electronic minimalism, in which the sparsest of sounds and instrumentation are utilized to create complex, nuanced sculptures of tone and texture.   Inspired by quantum physics and actualized by a variety of processing and modular synthesis, this album is yet another strong entry in her growing discography.

Line

One aspect that sets Jobin’s work apart in this often-crowded field is her judicious use of dissonance.  Rather than relying on distorted processing effects or abrasive synthetic tones, her work is instead more restrained and nuanced.  Gliding, almost bowed-string like tones cut through dramatically on “l,” as she builds upon simple loops into a richer, almost conventionally melodic sound.  The lengthy opening piece “n” features a swirling, almost organ like tone that fights with pure silence during the opening.  The piece transitions to a shimmering, sharper quality not unlike Robert Hampson’s work as Main in its most stripped-down capacity before blending extreme, yet low volume frequencies in its conclusion.

That is not to say that France’s work is all pure sounds and open spaces, however.  Sustained low-end vibrations stretch throughout “m,” which results in a piece with just the right amount of grit, but one that complements the rest of the piece well.  Even with these darker rumbles and the occasional bit of what most closely resembles digital interference, her use of quiet, almost melodic passages contrast extremely well and give the piece a distinct feeling of beauty.

The 13 and a half minute concluding composition, “s,” makes for the perfect culmination of Singulum and encapsulates her style as a whole.  The opening passages are bleaker and less inviting, exemplified by icy sounds and a slowly pulsing, slightly menacing layer of noises.  It never becomes overly powerful or commanding, but the sound has a distinctly sinister characteristic to it.  However, she uses the piece’s duration to evolve and develop the sound, rearranging the various layers to alleviate the tension she created beforehand.  By the conclusion of the composition, the layers have been shifted to a more open, spacious arrangement that lets light shine through what previously was kept in the dark.

Singulum is one of those albums that requires focused and dedicated attention, as any sort of distraction significantly hinders the impact of the work.  But through these hushed volumes and carefully treated electronic passages, France Jobin has constructed an album of quiet, yet lush arrangements.  While it is difficult to exactly imagine how quantum physics can translate to sound, Singulum is undoubtedly a pretty close approximation.

Creaig Dunton

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singulum – LINE_075 – soundnote – hatenablog (Japan)

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LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

France Jobinの新作が〈LINE〉からリリースされました。同レーベルからは2012年の『Valence』以来ですね。France Jobinはカナダはモントリオールのサウンド・アーティスト。研ぎ澄まされたミニマムな電子音響がその特徴です。i8u名義でも多数の作品をリリースしています。

「量子物理学にインスパイアされた」という本作は、これまで以上に澄んだ空気のように透明な音響に仕上がっていました。まさに音の彫刻。相変わらず徹底的にミニマムな音響が美しいです。とはいえ『Valence』よりが明確な反復感や展開があり、聴きやすいともいえます。そして、00年代以降のデジタル以降のミニマル美学の結晶のようなアルバムに仕上がっていました。いわば「デジタルアンビエント」として実に秀逸な作品なのです。さまざまな音にフィールドレコーディングにおる環境音がまじりあい、浮遊するような清潔で透明な音が生まれています。

制作は「アメリカ、ヨーロッパ、日本、スウェーデンEMSスタジオ」で行われ、「サージ、ブックラ200モジュラーシンセサイザー、ノード・モジュラー」などを使用しているそうです。

LINE〉は、今回、France Jobinと同時にTomas Phillipsのアルバムもリリースするなど、昨今では珍しく(?)なりつつあるデジタル以降の電子音響/サウンド・アート的な音響作品をリリースし続けており、自分のような嗜好性のリスナーにはとても貴重なレーベルです。昨年で15周年を迎え、この移り変わりの激しい電子音楽/音響界(?)では、いまや「老舗」ともいえるレーベルですが、今年のリリースにも期待が高まります。

singulum LINE_075 – The Answer Is In The Beat

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Singulum

LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

Typical of the Line label, the latest release by Montreal-based sound artist is ultra-minimal, but it contains moments of beauty. You need to turn it up loud, but it’s worth it, it sounds amazing. The opening track (“n”) fades in slowly, and has very beautiful piano loops and granulated effects. Eventually the loops sort of dissolve into a cloud, but they still retain their beauty, and it ends with an echoing, pulsing bass tone. The other pieces are shorter. “l” starts out with another gorgeous, minimal loop and gradually adds some haunting, engrossing synthesizer drones. “m” starts out a bit darker and more haunting, and eventually seems to drift towards something brighter and calmer, but then it ends up more chilling than before, concluding with a lightly piercing sine wave. “s” doesn’t change too much for the first half, just slowly layering in different synth pads, but the second half has more tonal variation, giving it a half-remembered-melodies feel. Very calm, slow moving, and tranquil.

Paul Simpson

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review – singulum – LINE_075 – 2016 – a closer listen

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Singulum

LINE_075 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | February 2016

Like a sluggish mummification process, the light and creamy textures of Singulum are gently wrapped around the body, embalming the slowly developing ambient music. On Singulum, Montreal sound artist France Jobin gently nudges her music forward, and it’s so hushed it’s hardly there at all; it’s an incredibly subtle approach.

Inspired by quantum physics, Jobin uses a series of quiet field recordings that are in turn manipulated, processed and lightly looped, the latter enjoying a healthy, liberal amount of space and freedom (an open loop, if there is such a thing), her modular synthesizers rearranging and transforming the music beyond all recognition. Science, sound and music are inextricably linked, so close as to resemble sons and daughters. They are elegant, despite the stuttering glitches that occasionally pass by. Reshaping both the timbre and the tonal quality of the original recording results in an entirely new entity being created.

Shapes inside the music are gently rearranged, changing beyond recognition but never entering their final state of being. As Jobin says, ‘Singulum represents an unobtainable goal, the process of decay while conserving a continuation of information’. Slowly shifting, and almost meditative in its breathing, the music is a secret ocean of calm. As soon as the pale, soft tonal intakes are taken, the exhalation of the music is the only thing that can follow. The non-intrusive sound of a bass frequency passes through, feeling heavy and yet somehow light, stuck in its black ice, and the lighter tones suddenly disperse, vanishing without a trace.

Singulum’s music is filled with a special kind of light. Translucent notes ghost around the music. And like a good friend, a lower bass accompanies the transparent ambient lines as they continue their journey. If you wanted to be technical, I guess you could call it microscopic ambient minimalism. To an extent, you need to concentrate to pick everything up; the ambient music flows easily and, on the surface at least, it holds a good deal of simplicity. But belying that simplicity is an all-consuming intelligence. After all, this is not an easy thing to produce – far from it. It’s easy to access and goes down nicely, but you can go deeper and deeper, too. In that sense, the listener can make it a challenging listen if he / she chooses to, and it’s a pleasurable record no matter how you decide to approach it. Everything falls into place at just the right time, and that’s not a coincidence. It may have been inspired by and rooted in science, but the slightly metallic drones are mystical, too. Like the pyramidal structures that lie inside Area 51, surrounded by nothing but a clear lake and the arid Nevada desert, they have a mask of the unknown hovering around them. Trance-like, the music progresses slowly. A soft hiss of static kisses the music as it travels along, keeping it steady. As the record draws to a close, a soft, glowing chord pulses at regular intervals. This being a LINE release, a pair of headphones is not only recommended but essential.

(James Catchpole)

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