La Musique de mon Disque
Ambiances Magnetiques / AM079CD
Pierre Tanguay / composition, objects
The Secret Path of Rain
Solstice / 15
Koji Asano / composition
One pleasing surprise which still awaits many adventurous listeners is the discovery of conceptual composer Koji Asano. He works with traditional and electroacoustic composition, and each of his Solstice releases is wildly different, but those who enjoy the noisier end of electronic composition are strongly advised to start with this one, “A Secret Path of Rain”, which as well as containing some truly visionary music is beautifully packaged in a design by the composer.
On this occasion, Asano has gone for what seems, on paper, to be a very conventional route: the construction of music using bands of wwhite noise, contorted into semi-rhythmic, semi-melodic abominations by the miracle of electronics. But this isn’t just an album of collaged blips, buzzes, squarks and glitches: oh no. This stuff has been assembled with meticulous care and an enviable ability to grasp the long form of a piece which eludes the great majority of people working in this field.
The composition falls into two parts, each around 25 minutes in length. The first is a relentless barrage of ideas which can only be compared to a Coltrane solo, and enormously extended elaboration of fairly simple material with consistent logic and intelligence. What just puts the icing on the cake is that, very occasionally, the original sound-sources for these noises creep through, banal dance and pop sounds just audible under a thick patina of noise or — to change the metaphor to something more in keeping with the artwork — the trace of something whose features have been almost entirely worn away.
The second half takes the same material and heavily punctuates it with silence, making it a far less comfortable listen. Truly nerve-jangling sounds emerge at odd moments, and the pauses between them are compulsive, horrible and titillating at the same time. It’s perhaps structurally harder to grasp for the listener than the first half’s fluent, improvisatory feel, but the high drama it contains more than makes up for that. There’s a good chance that Asano could become as revered a figure as Zorn, and for similar reasons, although the fact that he is far less accessible and a far more focussed postmodernist than this writer has ever come across before may stand in his way of commercial success. Let’s hope not: this is excellent work.
Pierre Tanguay inhabits an altogether calmer, more listener-friendly world. He may be a bit lighter than Asano — no, correction, he’s much lighter, the sort of thing you can play in company without too many people leaving — but as we all know, there’s a place for that too. This record, presumably Tanguay’s first, is a fine piece of work, and ought to (but probably won’t) secure him some crossover success with the ambiant techno crowd.
Actually, though, this disk isn’t as electronic as it sounds. Like London’s Adam Bowman, Tanguay plays a wide variety of objects which he uses as sources for the multi-tracked collages presented here: wine glasses, bells, toys and the other familiar stuff. The results, however, are quite different from the percussive circus one might expect, and the album sounds far more like a piece of electronica than anuythign else. Since it’s a studio creation, one is tempted to think of it as just that, although presumably it is the outcome of Tanguay having played live, in company or solo.
Tanguay’s approach to rhythm is far more conventional than Asano’s, although there’s no shortage of subtlety here. The relationship with the ambiant tradition seems ambivalent: listen closely if you like, and you will find interesting things, but just stick it on as background music and it works wonders. Actually — and it’s something of a controversial thing to say about an Ambiances Magnetiques release, I suppose — the genre this shares most with is easy listening.
Not the pop songs of Bacharach and his ilk, but the weird ethno-forgeries of Arther Lyman and (to a lesser extent) Martin Denny. To translate this world into something altogether more out-there without losing some of its intrinsic qualities is no mean achievement, and just because it doesn’t storm the barricades of culture doesn’t mean it’s short on cleverness or contemporary relevance. The album offers sixteen tracks of extraordinary variety but sounds end-to-end like a coherent project, and hence offers plenty to enjoy and to think about. Richard Cochrane