Your first step into the labyrinth is with the hollow creaking and clanking of Bamboo Cry. The background, which started out as silence, gradually fills with other sounds until the whole thing becomes very rich and dense. Not too gradually, though. Bamboo Cry is only 2′ 39″. But it’s as sweet a two and a half minutes as you’ll ever spend, I’m sure of it.
The next track, Crashtest #10, is over twenty-six minutes long, long enough to have three substantial sections–or, more accurately, long enough to make two substantial metamorphoses, of sound sources and of aesthetics. It starts off with outdoor, country sounds–bird calls, dogs barking, even a few car noises eventually. (There are cars in the country, too.) All underpinned with low frequency thuds and some hiss (pink noise) that gets louder and louder until the hiss is foreground and the birds are background.
Some church bells toll. Only once, sadly, but later on there is some choral singing as if from inside the building.
After a slow crescendo, with insect-like sounds added to the mix, there’s a section of thumping, clunky sounds like someone dragging a microphone around among some objects. The human sounds, heretofore very subtle, become more prominent now, though the mic sounds are still definitely front and center.
Presque rien-style open mic, live electronics, acousmatic, somehow this piece has them all, while being so much itself that I am uncomfortable even mentioning any of the categories it contains. It is a reminder that categories are not nearly as interesting as the experience of listening to an imaginative and well-crafted piece. And Crashtest #10 is nothing if not that.
The strong impression I take away from this really delightful piece is that such a fresh and genre-defying imagination as Emmanuelle Gibello’s can only bode well for the future of music.
I have included two excerpts of this piece.
However satisfying Crashtest #10 is, we are not out of the labyrinth yet, thankfully. A couple of loud shots open Pour faire peur aux enfants dans le noir, logically enough. To which are added loud creaking , whirring, echoey cityscape type sounds–traffic, machinery and the like. Not explicit, just a general sense of the city and the machine. The watery sounds that come in are more explicit, but we have hardly time to register the fact before there’s some loud, high-pitched screeching, metal against metal. Ratchets, clangs, a hard-edged strumming sound–all happening at once and making a very rich, complex weave.
Well, not really a weave. The fabric metaphor is false. This is an active, living, restless complexity.
And then, suddenly, it’s over.
The last track is Random Erratum, which starts with a nice, restful ticking sound, with some nice relaxing water sounds, too. A low frequency drone gets steadily louder as the ticking waxes and wanes. An irregular thump comes in, just to keep things random. Then some pink noise, several different lines swooping about, in volume and from channel to channel. Everything gets more and more active and some voices appear until an announcer’s voice makes it clear that, for the nonce at least, we are in the waiting room of a railway station or an airport, from the echo, probably the former. No matter, the swooping, swooshing, polyphonal pink noise is still the main thing, and it is delightful. Like being in a boisterous storm in the safety (and dryness) of your living room.
The shrieks of gigantic seagulls (in the imagination of the reviewer) may make your living room seem less than safe, but a sudden cut-off and some softer, warmer, echoey clangs and rumbles, and some exquisite scratching sounds like those old, nostalgic LPs, reminds you that this is no storm, battering at your windows; it’s a piece of music, and a very fine piece of music indeed.
[N.B.–If (sorry)…. When you purchase this CD, ignore the timing printed on the CD sleeve for this last track as Mlle. Gibello pulls a Lopéz in this piece. Perhaps as a kind of “you’re not out of the Labyrinthe, yet” gesture.]