Posted by on April 27, 2012

Valence on LINE  054 – 2012

Valence - France Jobin Montreal’s France Jobin purveys a kind of audio art in the realm of Roden rather than the Tietchens tradition; quiet sound-sculptures at the intersection of analogue and digital, of musical and visual. Valence is a kind of coming out, previous recordings bearing the i8u alias—on Room40, Non Visual Objects and Dragons Eye. The last mentioned label’s 29 Palms had showcased the artist’s subtle sleight of hand in ‘ambiguous atmospheres unfolding out of a seemingly infinitely creatively configurable trio of materials—synthetic sustain, wavering tonalities and digital crackle—that commingle with occasional emergent harmonics.’ Created entirely from transformed field recordings (of uncertain provenance), i8u familars will find Valence imbued with a similar pared back flowing minimalism, a discreet fishing in interstitial pools that’s become a trademark. As such it feels less like a change of substance than a further refined version of i8u’s delicate pointillism, though there’s seems a clearer and more present affective steer—away from doleful or dark—more glowing than glowering. It feels more integral, likely linked to Jobin’s incorporation of once lumpy lows into a more lissom high-mid spectrum. Press patter invoking Eliane Radigue and Celer is, in spirit rather than literal sound, on the mark, though the latter seems a more pertinent reference, these deep meditative slow harmonic modulations swimming in similarly solicitously designed translucence; slow-shutter sonics draw into a micro-world of heightened focus – a gentle gossamer drift, weaving a nature tone poem, albeit one studded with odd UHF flickers. Liminal is most definitely the word for the unbearable lightness of opener, “S Orbital,” while the following “P Orbital” is a little less shy and retiring, even generous in passages distinguished by microtonal minutiae, lingering long on designed apertures and occlusions, frequency isolations suspended between pin-sharp high pitches and softer focus harmonic colour forms. Valence draws inspiration from both the valence bond and molecular orbital theories, ignorance of which thankfully doesn’t pre-empt appreciation—though doubtless it would be further enhanced by consciousness of the parallels between quantum theory and compositional incertitude, between the emotional ambiguity of a work-in-process and molecular instability (reading from crib sheet). Ultimately, flipping from critic to fan, and recourse to ‘I don’t know much about Biochemistry, but I know what I like’ protestations, Valence offers plenty of an absolute musical quality here (particularly on the more fulsome final “D Orbital”) to allure the listening ear, particularly one of a dry-loving ellipsis-seeking inclination. Uncompromisingly minimal and steeped in eventlessness it may be, yet for all that, Jobin achieves a satisfying continuous dialectic—between mid-range sustain and high-end microsonic motion, a suture of binaries of replete evacuation and expansive intimacy. Buy at Line, Amazon, iTunes or Juno.

Alan Lockett