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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Pascal Battus, Anne-F Jacques, Tim Olive – Trois Conseillers (Caduc, 2018) ****

By Nick Ostrum

This album is curious and engaging. In a sense, it fits right in with much of the rest of the Caduc catalogue of abstract electro-acoustic music. In fact, it is one of the most compelling releases on the label so far and, really, of this type of EAI that I have yet encountered.

The first track starts slowly and humbly with a high-pitched hum that evaporates into a sizzle, then nothingness. Out of this quiet comes the listener’s first exposure to rich crackles and friction that thread through the rest of the album. The sounds are varied and interesting. I hear scraping and bubbling. Sometimes it sounds like the musicians are layering muted field recordings of rain, flowing water, settling wood, and wind. The credits, however, maintain that Pascal Battus, Anne-F Jacques, and Tim Olive are manipulating magnetic pick-ups, motors, rotating services, and other objects.

The three tracks wax and wane in a manner that has become the convention in this type of music largely absent repeating rhythms, melodies, or phrases. (Track three is the partial exception.) That said, the result never grows stale, repetitive, or predictable. Although each piece has an underlying unnerving (or maybe decentering) theme, the first and third are slower and more delicate. For its part, the second is more robust, yet still nuanced and, excluding an intense middle section, provocatively restrained. Rather than deploying the extreme dynamics in pitch or volume that one might expect, Battus, Jacques, and Olive orient their performance around varying levels of activity, sonic textures, and timbral subtleties.

This is not music for everyone. There are few recognizable elements to latch onto. There are no sections that will get stuck in your head, or get your toe tapping. Rather, the power lies in the richness of the sounds, the creative layering, the satisfying and almost comforting blend of muted rumblings, and the mysteries of the sound production that went into this. It is music that is not easy to follow, but is easy to find oneself lost in.