Review – 10-33cm (ROOM40) 2008 – by Marcus Whale, The Silent Ballet

i8u – 10-33cm (MP3 by Room40) 2008

A part of the spat of new releases on Room40 over late 2008 and early 2009, this offering is produced by Montreal-based sound designer France Jobin, best known for her conceptually mind boggling sound experiments as I8U. This latest work, 10-33 cm, focuses on string theory, an attempt to adapt these tenets of quantum physics to a sound context.

Being unfortunately shackled to an intellect utterly bereft of mathematical knowledge, I have no way of interpreting the conceptual basis for the piece, but Jobin’s skill as a sound designer is undeniable. Jobin creates a seven-part, 46 minute long universe of mainly sine-tone based sound worlds that are remarkable in their focus and detail. Each track is assigned a different ‘type’ of string and the disparity between the contents of each section is marked. The most beautiful moments in the work come at the very beginning, where tiny, high frequency sounds move in and out of each other and take on a delicate form. Massive arrays of sounds subsequently provide counterpoint to this initial moment, but ultimately don’t match the atmosphere that it creates.

The most remarkable element of this release is the ability for such intellectual, difficult music to become as evocative, even on an emotional level, as much of 10-33 cm is. A criticism may be, for all of its intricacies, these experiments occasionally lapse into over-repetition, becoming reduced to its subject matter, rather than finding identity through the medium by which the concept is being expressed – sound. However, as a whole, the suite is tight and well constructed, finding moments of great intensity and poise.

Room40 are known for managing the compromise between the intellectual aesthetic of this corner of experimental music and its ability to ascertain a human reaction to it, beyond the arguably dry conceptual origins that often mark the associated releases. I8U is an example of this success; above all, a demonstration of the complexity of Jobin’s craft, an approach to sound design that is difficult to fault, in its strong intent and flawless execution.

-Marcus Whale
Address: http://www.room40.org

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