Bissonnette’s debut album for 12k will be available on September 18th.
Wayfinding is Christopher Bissonnette’s sixth solo studio release and his first, of hopefully many, for 12k. The album embodies an evolution of Bissonnette’s work, moving from an exclusively synth-based series of explorations to an amalgam of electronics and acoustic methods. Each track seeks to find grandeur on a diminutive scale. Bissonnette’s focus has shifted from sweeping pastoral drones to introspective passages with delicate melody and elusive harmonies interlaced with studio and field recordings. This minute scale is also reflected in a photographic series that studies the domestic landscape of home. The sequence of images transforms the banality and insignificance of the familial interior into expansive vistas and bucolic panoramas. Wayfinding is Bissonnette’s most intimate and gauzy work to date and executed with beautiful restraint.
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
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.”