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Thursday, January 19, 2023

Lionel Marchetti & Abdul Moimême - Ciel - Cristal (Sonoscopia, 2022)

By Stuart Broomer

When Bebe and Louis Barron created the soundtrack for Forbidden Planet they both entered uncharted territory and created one of the tropes of 20th century culture, the collocation of electronic music and planetary exploration, or broader still, the exploration of other dimensions. The Barrons were reluctant to call their creation “music”, and so were the movie studio and the musicians’ union, leaving the Barrons credited for “Electronic Tonalities”. It was John Cage who eventually convinced the Barrons, credits aside, that they were producing “music”. Here two musicians make ample use of electronic sound as they record live in the Porto Planetarium in November 2021.

About a decade ago, I reviewed KHETTAHU (Creative Sources) by Abdul Moimême and Ricardo Guerreiro. The former already had an early version of his current rig in place -- two table-top electric guitars, employing e-bows, metallic percussion, various forms of preparation and objects dropped and scraped against the strings – while Guerreiro, on "interactive computing platform," processed the guitar sounds. I concluded by describing the sound as “a Balinese train yard in outer space”.

Here the roles of Marchetti and Moimême are much more distinct, with Marchetti playing synthesiser, Novation Bass Station 2 and electronics with Moimême’s current apparatus including a baritone guitar. The music here advances on a principle of paradox. Marchetti’s poetic annotation is revealing: “time upon time/ matter on matter metamorphosing to accommodate the paradox of/ immobile heat”. Is immobile heat akin to cold fusion? There is an additional quotation from the poet Fernando Pessoa: "I do not care. I don't care what? I don't know: I don't care.” Though the roles of Marchetti and Moimême sometimes seem distinct, I can rarely assign the source of the sounds I am hearing. Sometimes the most interesting music is that which resists even description, thus…

A particular not-knowing will drive these observations:

Ciel-Cristal (“sky-crystal”) begins in low-volume, pinched whistles, percussive knocks and glissandi, each with a kind of special precision, but an eerie precision, one without harmony or rhythm to judge it by, yet a precision nonetheless atmospheric. Is it the ghost of precision, or the faint luminescence of an alien sunrise? As volume rises and sounds become continuous and more numerous, that sense of precision persists, but it is also the precision of landscape or abstraction: the precision of what is, continuous with its life in time.

The sense of construction is absolute, as if the two were making something according to a detailed plan, though what that plan might be is indistinguishable from what is. The dividing line between electronically crafted and amplified physical sound is sometimes erased, at times blurred: something resembling a drum kit, an electric drum kit will appear, though of course it is uncredited. A series of cricket-like sounds do not insist on the existence of an originating cricket. In the universe of Ciel-Cristal, these sounds might predate the cricket, whatever that is. Any resemblance to the natural world a certain twang or swipe – is a gift, though there is not necessarily a donor.

Like the chance meeting of an umbrella and a sewing machine on an operating table occurring around the same time as the internal combustion engine, the reality of space exploration and the broad popularity of Evans-Wentz’s translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead arrived almost simultaneously in the imagination of the West. As the world grows daily less attractive, this music arrives with the ecstasy of space in a darkened theatre, the “Fantastic Voyage” of “2001” and the eternal return promised by the bardo, here refigured as a world suspended between the electronic and the amplified, the twirled and the scraped, the internal and the eternal, the intimate and the alien.

It sounds like outer space in a Balinese trainyard.