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