Futuresequence Review

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


The Quietus Review

The continual crossover between the wings of academically trained electronic experimentalism and what can generally still be called “indie music” – at least in the sense of independent labels, if not jangly whatsits troubling the charts – has long been in evidence with Kranky, thanks to performers like Tim Hecker and Gregg Kowalsky among many others.  Christopher Bissonnette’s third release for the label, Essays In Idleness, continues the association, with a series of pieces composed on a homemade analog synth. With Bissonnette having over a decade’s worth of formally recorded work in a variety of collaborative and solo contexts, Essays is also a chance to hear a performer not merely comfortable in an idiom but continuing to test it.

It does Bissonnette a disservice to call his work cerebral – here it’s as tactile, as he’s said himself, as one could want, audible in the way ‘A Deplorable Corrupt’ ebbs and flows with layered noise and serene keyboards interacting, a series of what almost sounds like dying amplifiers recording the sound of equally doomed machines. It’s somewhere between a ritual and a gallery showing, if not both. These themes of calmness and chaos as interaction drive much of the album, aiming to move beyond simple descriptions of sounding like a “drone” when there can be drones, of multiple sorts and strange kinds. Compared to where he was with his last, more spacious effort for KrankyIn Between Words – released seven years back – Bissonnette has embraced an angrier, much more unstable aesthetic.

Calling one track ‘Uniformity Os Undesirable’ both works as weirdly threatening command and as motto for the effort; though a mood is established throughout the album nothing quite resembles anything else. If new age is indeed back to some degree as functional description of a sound explored by many, this is a new and potentially dysfunctional machine age at heart, one where the clear feeling of feedback arcs as on ‘Delusions’ suggests the properties of Fennesz in one sense but are played with the kind of looming intensity that underscored original pioneers like Tangerine Dream and Popul Vuh on the other, a slow motion supernova.

‘Wasting A Little Time’ almost comes as a kind of concluding uplift to end the collection, tones bubbling like gongs floating in space, but Essays In Idleness is neither the product of someone resting on their laurels nor simply designed to offer an aural background for contemplation. You can if you want to let it, but it’s not an easy way to drift away.

Ned Raggett


By Volume Review

Essays In Idleness is a translation of Tsurezuregusa, a collection of medieval Japanese essays, penned as streams of consciousness by the monk Yoshida Kenkō. Its casual, thematically miscellaneous nature is a hallmark of zuihitsu literature. In this form, all material is shaped by the author’s environment, be it the immediate, physical atmosphere or the space in which their thoughts are occupied. This is the approach that Christopher Bissonnette adopts for Essays In Idleness, contextually distancing himself from his reputation as a composer that places weight on the interconnectedness of the senses and the relationship between media forms. Bissonnette’s environment is an artificial one, creating with a premise of dissatisfaction towards current trends of gritty, feral and untempered analogue production. Essays In Idleness sees Bissonnette exclusively utilise a self-built analogue synthesiser, critically narrowing his own sound pallette with an all-in attempt to squeeze as much innovation as possible from himself and his tool. Essentially, it’s far from a risky gambit and is more akin to an experiment — or rather the results of Bissonnette’s tests in ambience.

As “Greenish in its Light” patiently opens the album with its slow waking, pensive probing of delicate textures, I’m preoccupied with the alarm bells ringing out in my head. I can’t fathom who the album is for, and why, and my search for existential justification, that our species craves so voraciously, remains unfruitful by the end of the record’s final waltz through harmonics, “Wasting a Little Time”. Bissonnette seems a deft enough manipulator of sound, though as accomplished his sonic craftsmanship appears to be, Essays In Idlenessleaves me none the wiser. The intended audience for experiments is traditionally other scientists or practitioners of the relevant field, and it seems to be a record both by Bissonnette and for Bissonnette — a test of his own ability as well as a gauntlet thrown in spite of producers less gifted in subtlety. The album propagates the esoteric bubble of the science lab, and I’m left peering through the glass at half-formed algebraic equations.

It’s the album’s intention to convey the worth of fully exploring and understanding the tools one possesses to create, as well as the seemingly forgotten art of mastering the instrument of choice. Bissonnette stretches and delves into intricacies organically, shirking the school of thought that keeps things constantly in flux in order to conjure an illusion of evolution. Occasionally, he strikes gold and really impresses, such as on “A Deplorable Corrupt”, an unwinding beacon that picks up a transitory melody as it veers off into the distance. Other times, the tracks can be as perishable as that chord progression, yet absent of its gleaming impressionability. Take “Missing Chapters”, which loses itself in introspection, or “Entanglements”, lingering in stasis — as pretty as they may be, they’re vacuous listens that don’t go anywhere, never mind take the listener along. They’re felt and held onto like a brief moment of gentle breeze amidst a blizzard, acknowledged rather than appreciated. Neither comforting nor healing, they simply exist, unmoving.

Whether Bissonnette’s experimentations are successful in light of his objectives remains unknown to all, save for Bissonnette himself; there’s no way for listeners to discern whether the shortfalls of Essays In Idleness are down to the constraints of the machine, or imperfect vision on the part of the one playing it. It’s a listen that glances more than touches, rarely engaging and largely passive, and as such, the potency of Bissonnette’s findings suffer. Ultimately, he stands apart from contemporaries but fails to stand out. One thing that certainly is clear is Bissonnette’s adeptness with composition and sound generation, discernable from the graceful consistency of the record, most rousing on the riffy soliloquy “Uniformity is Undesirable”. The seamless flow of the release stems from its shyness towards structure, a symptom of Bissonnette’s zuihitsu-like approach, allowing the peaks to occur as genuine surprises to the listener with no build-up of expectations. That said, streams of consciousness aren’t always particularly interesting to follow, with insights and delights few and far between. Essays In Idleness is a shimmering and glistening listen, though its beauty is fleeting and unenlightening. Rarely does the record provoke intuitive emotion or interest, and it’s time pleasantly spent rather than well-spent. Turns out it doesn’t pay all that much to invest so heavily in idleness.

by Tayyab Amin



‘Essays in Idleness’ – April 7, 2014

‘Essays in Idleness’, my third full length solo release, will be available April 7 on Kranky.









By Gregory Adams
Six years on from ambient electronic artist Christopher Bissonnette’s last solo set for Kranky Records, In Between Words, he’s announced the follow-up. Titled Essays in Idleness, it hits retailers April 7.

A press release explains that the Canadian composer had worked on this latest set for two years, using but a self-built analogue synthesizer to plot out his soundscapes.

“The album is a series of experiments subsequent to a period of deep reflection on my working process,” Bissonnette outlined in a statement. “This sequence of tracks is the culmination of two years of intense exploration with the intention of allowing the medium to have a more profound effect on the outcome, the methodology allowing chance, risk and error to play a greater role.”

The eight-song set is said to feature a tapestry of “complex textures and compositional fragments” that play out as a series of “long held tones and sweeping drones.”

While samples from the set have yet to be unveiled, you can check out the artwork up above and peep the tracklisting down below.

While Bissonnette’s last solo long-player was 2008’s In Between Words, he issued the collaborative LP The Meridians of Longitude and Parallels of Latitude with David Wenngren in 2011.


Consequence of Sound Show Review: Kranky Twenty


“Canadian electronic musician Christopher Bissonnette followed, perched at one corner of the stage behind two laptops, a tablet, and a large mixer, letting an enormous projection screen dominate the center. Though he apparently keeps his live performances rare, the cinematic experience that unfolded showed no signs of rust. Bissonnette seemed to be controlling the video and audio simultaneously, impressionistic squares (occasionally blurred faces, other times rippling water, yet others drifting through nighttime traffic) paired with aching layers of electronic expanse. Though he stood behind a table of Apple electronics, the ping of an iPhone message alert in the audience felt exceedingly jarring amid Bissonnette’s organic, propulsive set.”

Full article at: http://consequenceofsound.net



I will be performing in LA on November 6th along with Tim Hecker and Akira Rebelais and in Seattle on November 8th for immersound. immersound is a concert event/philosophy initiated by France Jobin (i8u) which proposes to create a dedicated listening environment by focusing on the physical comfort of the audience through a specifically designed space. The premise for immersound is to seek out/explore new perceptions and experiences of the listening process by pushing the notion of “immersion” to its possible limits.


Kranky Celebrates 20 Years with Anniversary Shows


From December 12 to 15, Kranky will celebrate twenty years in the business with shows at various Chicago venues. Highlights include ambient duo Stars of the Lid backed by the Wordless Music Orchestra (Kranky reissued 1997′s The Ballasted Orchestra earlier this year), Tim HeckerGrouperKeith Fullerton Whitman, and more.

I will be performing at Constellation in Chicago December 13th along with Grouper, Benoit Pioulard and Justin Walker. 

Fact Magazine

Year End Part II: The Best of 2012

I have some misgivings about publishing year end lists. But I do find that I gather great suggestions from other peoples lists. There is simply too much great music being made and never enough time to research it all. So with that, I hope that I may introduce some new work to others from my past years collection. 

I think I have finally narrowed my “Best Of” to 15. 
Strangely there was no stand out release this year. Plenty of incredible work, but nothing that seemed to deserve a special place at the top apart from the others. So the following are in no particular order.

Novaya Zemlya
Thomas Köner

The Expanding Universe
Laurie Spiegel

The Oram Tapes: Volume One

Daphne Oram

Kane Ikin

The Decline Effect
Jim Haynes

Selected Ambient Works Vol. II Vinyl Reissue
Aphex Twin

Above All and Beyond

Robert Turman

Particle Language
Matt Carlson

12 Stationer VI
Akos Rozmann

Mike Shiflet

Modern Jester
Aaron Dilloway

FE₃O₄ – Magnetite
Mika Vainio

Lee Gamble

Persuasive Barrier
Three Legged Race