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Sleeping Dogs Lie 02oct09: Jamie Drouin, Yann Novak, Bionulor

auditoriummutekAnother exquisitely packaged treasure trove from Yann Novak and Jamie Drouin on Dragon’s Eye companion label, Infrequency. This is the fourth edition released by Infrequency, and sees the live work of Drouin and Novak captured for posterity in this fine release, a document of their live performance at Canada’s hugely influential Mutek sound festival.

As with any combination of artists it is always a reviewer’s worst nightmare in trying to ascribe authorship of any sequences to any particular artist, and this is one such instance. As both artists inhabit very similar sonic territory, that would be a futile exercise, and detrimental to the overarching and pervasive sense of sheer quality and precision of this release.

Auditorium Mutek is about as polished and delicious as any ambient soundscaping gets, with an evenly paced tonalism permeating a sonic vacuum right from the outset, this release fully engages with the senses, and lures the listener in to one of the most accomplished and beautifully worked pieces I’ve heard in many a year, and it’s run of 250 copies should easily expire in a very short time. If I sound excited, its because I have seen the work of these two artists evolve and become more defined over the last couple of years, and I think here, we perhaps see that collaboration at its peak, in a singular release that is at once mature and measured.

Drouin and Novak take familiar elements that could easily fit in with any minimal/digital release, and yet somehow they manage to make it sound fresh, at times like Ryoji Ikeda on downers, with delicate rhythmic sequences, and protracted bleep-fests, draped over raw, elemental tones and atmospherics, that creep along, enveloping the senses, and sparking the imagination.Sometimes the rawness is extruded into almost pure feedback, but a feedback that does not grate or tear at the listener’s sensibilities, but recedes into the background as texture. If you only buy one CD this year, then Auditorium Mutek would be the one that I would go for… hands down, one of the best releases of the year so far. (Barry G Nichols, White_Line)

BionulorTaking a similar approach to the classic likes of Aube, Bionulor is billed as being focused exclusively on “sound recycling,” or using only a single sample or sound as the basis for an entire piece. As a self-imposed limitation this sometimes does keep the compositions to a Spartan minimum, yet just as often become a chaotic mess of layered sounds and effects.

Some of the pieces are intentional details of singular sonic elements: both the opening “nchr.01? and “nchr.03? focus exclusively on singular stringed instrument sounds, left to repeat for lengthy periods with only the most minute changes in dynamics and layering. The changes and variations are there, but are extremely subtle, with more electronically effected sounds serving more as accompaniment to the organic sounds rather than being the dominant focus.

This is a pretty stark contrast to tracks like “pvn.,” which opens with subtle ambient tones and cricket-like loops, while plucked string notes are there and clearly defined, the focus becomes much more on the processed sonic elements, via spacey pitch bent tones and more low frequency percussive thuds. The final minutes of the track pile on the effects and noises to a level of pure chaos. This dynamic carries over into “l. fll.” which, though opening with a large pastiche of silence, eventually becomes dominated by digital clicks and cuts over plucked string notes. Piano sounds are allowed to appear in their natural state for most of the piece, but the digital elements are much more the focus.

Unfortunately, these tracks are almost too chaotic for their own good, and the shift from subtle repetition to erratic texture shifts is a jarring one. Tracks like the symphonic “nchr.04? are among the most satisfying, balancing the natural with the digital well.

This is a good debut release, and the concept of limiting ones self to a single sound to create an entire piece is a good one, and definitely goes beyond the limitations of a Boss DD-5 delay pedal that Akifumi Nakajima was too reliant on, but the actual structure and composition needs more attention. A greater focus on development and sequencing as opposed to just a quick transition between moods and textures would be a definite asset to future releases. (Creaig Dunton, Brainwashed)

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