Posts Tagged ‘minimal dance’

Constellation – 20th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The first collaborative full-length album by Automatisme (the Canadian musician and conceptual artist William Jourdain) and Swiss field recordist, ambient musician, visual artist and writer/academic Stefan Paulus, Gap/Void is nothing if not a deep, immersive sonic experience.

While the origins of many albums are largely unremarkable and barely worthy of reading, let alone comment, Gap/Void is a strong exception, and for that reason, it feels appropriate to quote at length:

Paulus approached Jourdain with a proposal based on his field recordings made during numerous mountain expeditions in the Swiss Alps, the Caucasus, and north of the Arctic Circle—documenting stormy weather, high alpine winds, avalanches, and sounds emanating from glaciers and from the insides of crevices and caves. Paulus created ambient noisescapes from these recordings by splicing and folding them into hundreds of layers of sound: an analog to the geological strata of their geographic sources. The resulting audio mixes, compounding a multiplicity of spatio-temporal excursions, were then further encased in drones using the natural tone series (the traditional zäuerli or wordless yodels of northeastern Switzerland), the monotonic standing drone of Lamonte Young’s Dream Syndicate, and the mass chords of early 1970s Kosmische Musik as points of reference. Paulus sent these extended ambient/noise pieces to Jourdain as source material for the latter’s bespoke Automatisme techniques, where variable tempo and glitch systems forge more overt minimal techno/IDM works.

‘Hey, how about an Arctic trek?’ doesn’t really sound like a pitch for a musical collaboration, and pitched to a TV producer, it would probably have been a series with its own self-made soundtrack – although for TV they’d have probably wanted some celebrities slogging across the barren wastes lugging audio gear or something stupid.

The first of the album’s ten tracks is the twelve-minute ‘Säntis’, where an insistent and overtly synthesised loop thrums against a slow ambient swirl before an insistent uptempo kick drum beat thumps in and for a spell things go techno… before becoming derailed. The tempos are all over, the ebbs and flows run in different times and tempos and before long it becomes quite overwhelming, disorientating as the layers build… and then everything falls away and you’re left with the rumbling sound of the wind scouring the bleak, barren ground. It sounds harsh and inhospitable, it sounds dark and unsettling, and yet it feels less tense and is somehow less agitating than the preceding pulse-quickening sensory overload.

Things do settle a little as the album progresses, and by the arrival of the third track, ‘Uble Schlucht’, we’re into something of a more straightforward Krautrock style, dominated by bubbling synths and motorik grooves. But, at the same time, it’s a soundscape of shifting terrain, of snowdrifts and undulations, crags and cervices.

There’s a restlessness about Gap/Void that means it’s impossible to settle, that keeps you on edge in a way. The compositions – particularly the way the percussion is eternally evolving, in a continual flux, more a series of palpitations and panic attacks than a pulsating heartbeat – are tense, ever-moving, with a flicker-filled urgency that offers little respite.

‘Blau Schnee’ goes all out on the deep bass and low-end murkiness, the beats and bass melting into one another, while ‘Stoos’ goes ultra-sparse and is so minimal it borders on the microtonal, before an off-tempo beat bounds in and trips the wire.

The pieces on the second half of the album are rather shorter, with none over the six-minute mark, but the sound and sensation remain similar, with crackling electronics dominating and beats that poke at the innards – sometimes subtly, others less so. But it never really lets up, and while very little of Gap/Void gives even the vaguest hint of its source and origins, it does convey a certain sense off desolation, of isolation. Soon, we will all live in desert, and it will sound like this.

AA

cover Automatisme Stefan Paulus - Gap Void