DUO – on mAtter (JP) – France Jobin – Richard Chartier Toneshift (USA)

My ears have been open to both these artists since the late 90s/early 00s, and though they have each evolved in direction over these decades, and I’ve heard collaborations they have done with others, separately, this may be the first time I’m hearing them play in both ears at the same time. A natural pairing. Both use subtleties to a fault. Both create an atmosphere of voluminous, restrained suspense that looms in space. And together it becomes more amorphous and wide.

The duo offers five long tracks which “creates an “intemporelle“ and pervading atmosphere” that are like the fault lines on thin ice (DUO.1), yet also have the ferocity of a jumbo jet poised to take flight. With the incredibly sensitive mastering by Stephan Mathieu, these two are in the best hands to allow their luxe patina to be showcased as quiet and raw where need be. The sensation, like floating amid embryonic fluid (or in a bath of ash), comes to mind.

There’s a tension of being on eggshells on DUO.5 that is quite palpable, in waves, almost industrial, yet triggered by a ghostly reverberation. The containment of static noise (or is it heavy rainfall?) is complex, and continues into the next track with an even deeper sense of query. Here on DUO.2 a sonic hum twists over and around the continued undertones in the ‘wall of sound’ just as a new reticent melody starts to emit into the cracks. A refreshing break of coloration perfumes the space, distancing itself from the pressurized mechanisms and sonic scape, yet also remains somewhat fleeting. I’m reminded of flying insects, buzzing by, teasing their variegated color, and away they go, free to the wind.

This may be considered minimal, but it’s quite complex. This may be assumed ambient, but it’s far from it. Instead, these artists, who on their own have created a world of micronoise, austere pixelations and other funky sounds, have fused a much larger picture from all sorts of finer parts. In fact, if I didn’t know better I would say DUO.3 was actually a prepared church organ in its bloated oscillation. Through patches, programming and patience Chartier and Jobin superimpose a meta world soundscape that breaks from either of their own traditions, offering a stimulating hybrid.

As this glorious sense of suspension arises and stays awhile there are other moments of contemplation. In the same stroke there is this continued fleeting sensibility that fills the air, like an impending end. On the closer, DUO.4, this only becomes much more dramatically paced at first, but within about four minutes, in a rush of circulated drone, minimal hiss and velocity, brings about a more organic sound. Together they develop a dreamy fusion of harmonic curvatures bathed in duly signature vintage vinyl imperfections, pop, crackle, etc. Towards the end the balanced nature of this blend becomes distorted, entangled, and somewhat flying saucer-like in retrospect. Satellites soften and shut down slowly in fading, static sonics.

TJ Norris (December 2018 Toneshift (USA)

Intrication No. 919 – Toneshift (USA)

A stalwart of the microsound scene, France Jobin releases her 9th album on the No. label. Despite her previous association with the most lowercase of sounds, this album sees the Montreal-based artist expand her sound palette considerably. These tracks are noticeably fuller in scale and scope, allowing Jobin to explore wider realms of audio. Of course, her signature sine waves are present in many places here, delicate shards and pings of treble and hiss, but overall this collection embraces a warmer, richer aesthetic and it pays off.

Track titles are mysterious, possibly relating to quantum entanglement, as this heady area of theoretical physics was influential in the construction of Intrication. The first piece, “Ph”, is an epic 15-minute track that begins proceedings in style. Glitched-out half-melodies stutter from speaker to speaker, with high pitched crackles following along the periphery. Thicker drones appear, until at the halfway point everything dissolves into a beautifully atmospheric soundscape. Sunlit chords create a languid, melancholy mood. Those trademark sine waves make a sudden entry along the way, injecting high frequencies into the soft pads. It’s an amazing way to kick off the album, and is an absolute highlight for me.

By contrast, the second track, “01V”, is less than a minute long, a sketch of synths that act as a palette cleanser before another sine wave introduces the third track, “N”. This piece spends its first few minutes in typically Jobian territory: sparse, barely audible sine waves ping back and forth, as a midrange drone gradually creeps into the audio view. Ever so slowly, this template builds in volume, while extra tones are added to flesh out the frequency field.

e-” is a much more substantial piece that starts life with smaller, twinkling sounds that create random patterns of looped melodies, but so tiny that they play tricks with the listener’s perception. Slowly, these metallic sounds are stretched and filtered into different shapes, and widescreen drones begin to fill in between their spaces. Taking its time to develop, this is another long form piece that stands out here, building in intensity until a swarm of buzzing sine waves takes over and fades into silence. Another stand out track for me.

Another enigmatically-named track, “m” starts with simple piano notes struck, that become engulfed in ever-increasing layers of fuzz and glitches. This is one of the most maximal pieces here, and I can imagine this being performed live would be an immersive experience. This thought makes me wonder: as Jobin is a prolific live performer, especially at larger festivals, perhaps her composition approach has been informed by this. The need to fill larger live spaces might steer her towards a lager sound, whereas her earlier work was informed by smaller, more intimate spaces like galleries.

The glitches return in the final track, “graviton”, which could be right at home on a Raster Noton release. Again, an implied melody is staggered into rhythmic cut-ups, fluttering and dancing, and which was briefly touched on in a smaller way on a previous track, “02V”. “graviton” takes this concept and repeats it until the final few minutes, when slightly harsher sounds are permitted, but always in a controlled manner. This album seems to mark a shifting in Jobin’s sound, one that departs from the strictly ultra-minimal ethos she’s known for, and I for one am excited to hear where this goes.

Darren McClure (December 2018) Toneshift

Intrication No. 916 – Stray Landings (UK)

Intrication No.916|   CD-Digital | February 2018

France Jobin’s latest work, Intrication, takes its cues from aspects of quantum theory I’m not going to pretend to understand with much coherence. In essence, the album looks at a process known as ‘quantum entanglement’; when particles interact in such a way that the quantum state of each cannot be described without reference to the other. The album puts the tiniest fragments under the microscope, revealing within them kaleidoscopic expanses.

Despite the fact Intrication explores these scientific complexities, it could equally be replicating religious or near-death experiences. ‘m’ is a good example of this reverent quality; like an interlude from a cLOUDDEAD track stretched to the extreme. ‘03V’ follows a similar mood, delicate sun-blushed washes of ambience lightly brushing past. Playing into France’s concept for the album, this track forms part of a larger picture. The ‘V’ stands for ‘vignette’, and ‘01V’ to ‘04V’ are interspersed between the rest of the tracks, acting as a familiar motif throughout.

While these act as palette cleansing interludes, the tracks between cover more wide-ranging territory. One of the albums greatest nuances is the combination of natural and synthetic tones. Take ‘graviton’ for example, a glorious combination of warm, expansive dub-ambience and microcopic static pulses. Perhaps the crux of Intrication, ‘e-‘, is another case in point. Delicate chimes ring across the stereo field, gentle reverberations rising and falling abruptly in the backdrop. These resonant twinkles are eventually met by undulating low-end structures, the chimes dissolving into itching twitches of static.

It’s fitting Intrication sees its release on Material Object and Atom™’s ‘No.’ label. Throughout his own work Atom™ has explored similar mediations between the scientific and the psychedelic (take a listen to his mid-90s DATacide project for example). Speaking with France about her interpretation of quantum entanglement through the album, she discussed applying the same concept to the relationship between sound and our perception of it. At this point the question becomes almost a philosophical one; as we are presented with the possibility that each of our perceptions may differ, although still pertaining to the same ‘real world’ sound. Whatever our sensory differences might be however, there is a joyous sense of wonder and cosmic discovery to be found throughout Intrication; a considered tribute to the unknown.

Theo Darton Moore (February 2018) Stray Landings

 

 

Scènes LINE_ 093 – Fluid Radio (UK)

Scènes LINE_ 093|   Digital | November 2017

The various interlocking scenes of experimental and ambient music are geographically dispersed but nonetheless close-knit, and the effects of significant events in these genres ripple out far and wide. Such was the case with the untimely death of Mika Vainio, a founder of Pan Sonic and producer of numerous landmark recordings under his own name and the moniker Ø, in April 2017. “scènes” is Canadian sound artist France Jobin’s tribute to her friend, offered in her own distinctive language of minimalist ambient music.

The album fades in with a warm breathing chord, joined later by steadier tones. The music is quiet and subdued, barely there at times, before returning with slightly more intensity. The second ‘scène’ is more present, with major key tones gently tumbling over one another. A repeating melodic motif injects more energy, though the piece remains fairly quiet. The sense of calm and peace is palpable across the first half of the album, derived from major key harmony, low volume, and an unhurried pace.

The minor-key drone and fluttering, trembling tones of ‘scène 3’ make it the only track on the album to resemble a typical musical expression of grief. Mid-way through the piece, the drone fades almost to the point of inaudibility, then returns with stiller, more stable tones, losing some of the earlier distraught quivering. ‘scène 4’ also flutters, but rather than sounding distraught instead pulses with energy; to me, its driving rhythms feel like a positive celebration and affirmation of life. Music needn’t shy away from pain or grief, but it is also able to remind us why we struggle. “scènes” is able to look sorrow in the eye, but at the same time remembers the good, and holds on tightly to the light.

Nathan Thomas (February 2018)

singulum LINE_075 – etherREAL (FR)

LINE_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)

singulum_cover

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)

singulum_cover

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)

singulum_cover

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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