The Wine Dark Sea is Bissonnette’s fifth solo studio album. The album’s title is derived from the writings of Homer, where he oft referred to a rough and stormy sea as “wine-dark”. Homer’s descriptions of colour are devoid of any reference to the colour blue. And any suggested meaning in his description of the sea point to the colour red. This apparent contradiction has brought much speculation about the significance and understanding of colour in ancient Greece. Keeping with the motif of colour, track titles on the album are based on references from contemporary artists and their insights on colour, form and implied meaning.
The album represents a shift for Bissonnette’s work, moving from an exclusively synth-based series of explorations to a hybrid of electronic and acoustic methods. The result is a rolling and slow-moving tide of tones and undulations. The textures are in some passages soft and mollifying but fluently shift to moments of tension and unease. The Wine Dark Sea is an aural allegory to sound and colour and our tenuous understanding of abstract meaning.
releases March 13, 2020
Mastered by Porya Hatami
Cover photo by Christopher Bissonnette
all rights reserved
Album: Touching Down Lightly
Label: Pocket Fields
Catalogue N°: PF050
Release date: December 2014
1. Field Rotation – Cloud Observation (05:23)
2. Offthesky – Upside Drown (05:27)
3. Segue – Retreat (05:09)
4. Ghost and Tape – Haven (05:40)
5. Spheruleus – Intervalla (03:20)
6. Pillowdiver – Your Version, Not Mine (03:25)
7. The Frozen Vaults – Frozen Streams (03:11)
8. Zvuku – Catch Your Death (04:40)
9. The Green Kingdom – Endless White Drift (03:20)
10. Maps and Diagrams – The Grey Ghost (04:00)
11. Giulio Aldinucci – Cocoon (05:36)
12. Porya Hatami – See-Saw (05:46)
13. Wil Bolton – Grey Seas (Edit) (04:57)
14. Hakobune – Buche de Noёl (05:32)
15. Christopher Bissonnette – Archivist (04:10)
16. Pleq + Lauki – XIV (Anne Chris Bakker Remix) (05:22)
VA – Touching Down Lightly (CDr Album, Limited to 200 copies)
Curator by Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq)
Manager of label by Vadim Lebovski
Cover by Staszek Sokołowski
Limited Edition: CDr – 200 copies
Handstitched hard envelope.
Christopher Bissonnette’s first album for Kranky in seven years is fairly different from the more patient, pastoral ambient terrain he’s traversed on past releases. InsteadEssays in Idleness finds Bissonnette limiting his explorations to a single homemade modular synthesizer, which at first seemed slightly disappointing of a prospect to me. Given that modular synthesis is so en vogue at the moment as a sort of reaction against completely software-based electronic music, I don’t know that it’s as compelling or daring a move to make as it may have seemed a few years earlier for some of his peers. But listening to the album, my reservations about Bissonnette joining the modular synthesis bandwagon are for naught; while it’s a different animal from his previous repertoire, I find most of the album to be quite good.
There are times when Bissonnette employs a rather typical octave toggle to his monophonic leads, abruptly toggling from one octave to the next as notes cycle through. It’s the sort of thing that seems like modular synthesis 101, recalling the monophonic Moog sounds of Boards of Canada and conjuring up somewhat cliched images of sun-faded 70s camcorder footage. But Bissonnette only occasionally indulges such sounds here, instead often lingering in a more nebulous field of overtones and oscillating drones. The closest comparison I can draw is some of the recent synth output of M. Geddes Gengras, because both composers seem to be pulling inspiration from the same lonely and introverted places.
The delayed, sprinkling octave shifts of “A Deplorable Corruption” and “Entanglements” show off Bissonnette’s love of the sometimes arbitrary and abrupt changes in sound attributed to the nature of the synth. But it’s the lead track, “Greenish In Its Light,” that is such a clear standout to me — it’s fragile and luminous, the visual of refracted light in such an intuitive and instinctive way.
‘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.
“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 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.
The Expanding Universe
The Oram Tapes: Volume One
The Decline Effect
Selected Ambient Works Vol. II Vinyl Reissue
Above All and Beyond
12 Stationer VI
FE₃O₄ – Magnetite
Three Legged Race
I realized recently that I hadn’t posted on my own site in near to six months. I’ve been in hiding attempting to finish some new material that I have been working on the better part of two years. Experimentation with new recording processes and techniques takes time. At least that is what I’m telling myself to justify the large gap between releases. As you may have read if you checked out the Trash Audio article I posted several months ago, I’ve been exploring the world of synthesis after many years working mostly with an electroacoustic process. While the results may resemble my other work in some respects, I believe this work to be rather different. In tandem with this body of work I’ve been finalizing another album of tracks that are more akin to my last two releases on Kranky. I have made an effort at times to merge these two techniques but as of yet they are still two disparate projects. With that, I am hoping to have both these releases out into the wild sometime in the coming year depending on were they might be released. That is if anyone decides they want to release them.