Le Mal Du Siècle / Relay

Relay is an online music project devised and curated by Irish musician John Lambert aka Chequerboard. The aim in the project is to create an unbroken chain of sound pieces where each work is created in response to the previous so that ideas and sounds shift, mutate and evolve over time.

Artist Statement/ Process:
Although not entirely apparent, field recording plays an important role in my work. Either in the form of acoustic inspiration or the subtle inclusion in a textured track. At this time of year ice flows work their way down the Detroit river, a constant zeotrope of frozen water. The sound of the massive sheets of ice colliding creates a perpetual cacophony of textures. After hearing Marie Guilleray’s work and understanding that location played a substantial part in her piece, it seemed only logical to pursue a recording that reflected the dissimilarity/similarity between Detroit and Venice.

Once I had captured the sounds from the river I walked into the city in the early evening when most activity ceases for the day and people who inhabit the downtown during work hours vacate and head back to the suburbs. The city becomes a vacant colossus of architecture and concrete. I recorded a few sounds in my short trek all of which were filled with hollow sounding textures with occasional traffic noise. Emulating the pulsing din of a dormant city, I produced a series of frequency modulated sine waves that slowly build gaining in volume and harmonics until they break and recede leaving only the sounds of the river remaining.

Both Detroit and Venice exist due to their proximity to water but their similarities end there. Unlike Venice’s labyrinth of streets, Detroit’s downtown is a city that was clearly planned out from it’s inception. Streets extend in concentric circles from the city center and there is far less activity or chance for variation. The final recording attempts to replicate both the arch of daily activity and the toneless quality of urban noise.

Le Mal Du Siècle

The Meridians Review From The Silent Ballet

One could be forgiven for thinking that David Wenngren, of Library Tapes, and Canadian sound artist Christopher Bissonnette, would make a dream collaboration. Their first release together, The Meridians of Longitude and Parallels of Latitude is a beautifully realized mixture of drone and the purest ambient. Their own distinctive sounds are blurred on the album, creating entirely new atmospheres, and both sides are present. David Wenngren’s work here uses field recordings and minimal experimental aspects; natural field recordings, static pops, and experimental hiss are featured, instead of the piano predominantly used in Library Tapes’ music. What we find in this collaboration, and maybe what is expected, are colorful, bright textures and light drones.

Like the cover art suggests, this is a warm, autumnal record – like a breezy September day before the winter chill takes hold. There is a shimmering quality present throughout, and it creates a hypnotizing effect.  Bissonette’s natural ambient architecture appears to be the most prominent feature at first glance, but take a closer listen and Wenngren’s contribution also stands out, although it is a subtle, yet effective presence; both artists operate on different levels. The photography used represents the sounds perfectly: a blurry, bright, and lucid landscape as seen from above, a moment in time captured forever. The record feels like it’s in a continual dream; the ever-shifting nature of the drones feels alive and illuminates a bright brilliance. Only a few in the ambient field can truly reach a depth present here, and many can’t entice as effectively.

The winds of static and the warm seasonal tones reveal an active sound, one that is always progressing – if drone had a fast forward button, it would probably sound like this. Like the landscape from our photograph, the colors and qualities are always changing, if only subtly, and each track has its own unique mood, a snapshot. The contrasts in tone and experimentation help create substantial diversity. “A Deceptive and Distant Howl” sets the tone with a warm drone next to a dusting of crackles, and “Burn Like A Meteor And Leave No Dust”  has powerful winds similar to a tropical storm and the rhythm of ocean waves before it is overwhelmed by static and turns grainy.

One critical aspect that makes this collaboration a success is that both Weengren’s and Bissonette’s individual sounds don’t overshadow one another. The Meridians of Longitude and Parallels of Latitude is a perfect blend of each artist’s take on ambient music. “Their Hunted Expression,” featuring distant, diluted drops of rainfall, makes a lasting impression and acts as an effective closer. While it can’t be said that the listener hasn’t been here before, the quality is high and there are no faults for what it does. An impressive organic depth exists that leaves both artists’ fingerprints firmly present, and it matches the quality of many of their standalone releases. This is as ambient as it gets in its very nature, and it is a gorgeous album that will leave the listener bathed in a warm afterglow, for one moment only – the feeling when the clouds lift and true beauty is revealed. Like the blurry photo, this record is that moment in time.

– James Catchpole

The Silent Ballet