The work of Christopher Bissonnette is, even to those who do not find his particular brand of contemplatively-minded electroacoustic work riveting, a worthy flag to hoist in the argument for the positive aspects of social media, and the internet as a whole creating a global community within which to share art of any sort. Those bemoaning the loss of geographically-based scenes and the flooding of the web with below-par art (music especially) as a consequence of ever-increasing interconnectivity simply aren’t listening to the right stuff – stuff that could only have got the exposure it has due to the internet. Christopher Bissonnette is one such individual – he himself crediting socially-minded internet spaces to the growth of his fanbase in an article for trashaudio.com on his work environment and methods in 2012.
‘Essays in Idleness’, his third and very awaited release, is out on the ever-eclectic Kranky on 7th April. The album sees Bissonnette actively shift his palette away from electroacoustic sound sources and towards “a more tactile approach to sound generation” (according to the label). Acting in accordance with this sonic change, his methods too have changed – instead of drawing and shaping sounds from a variety of sources, all the material present on the record has been garnered from a handmade synthesiser of his own creation, with this allowing him to take a serious step back in the creation of the album to critique and mediate on his methods of sound production, not merely the sounds being produced.
That is not to say that this record is one of pure self-indulgence, or some lifeless exercise within which the methodology and thought behind is the record is more interesting than the raw audio itself – ‘Essays in Idleness’ is synthesiser music shimmering with riveting sounds; despite the general feel of the sound itself is, as with many analogue synthesiser meditations, arguably ‘old’ (bringing to mind as they do the work of Kraut, Eno and memories of everyone’s first ‘synth music’ experience), the sounds themselves are often very ‘new’ in that they are somehow idiosyncratic, and slightly confusing at times. This is not a record that can be simply placed on in the background of some activity, or perhaps even meditated to – this is a record that oddly demands your attention, only to demand that you relax once you have given it.
The attention that has gone into shaping every sound on the record justifies entirely the two-year span of its making, and where Bissonnette goes now is very much an open question. Simply listening to opening-track ‘Greenish in its Light’ is enough to excite one to seek out Bissonnette’s previous releases, both solo (which can be found on Kranky as well) and collaborative (with David Wenngren on the similarly high-flying Home Normal). Any further talk about the actual subjective experience of listening to this release is pointless, since it really just has to be listened to.
Review by Max Hampshire