Monday, 4 January 2021

Jean-Jacques Perrey ‎– Prélude Au Sommeil (1958)

Style: Abstract, Experimental, Electroacoustic
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Institut Dormiphone, Creel Pone
A.   Prelude Au Sommeil
B.   Prelude Au Sommeil

Clear vinyl repress, forthcoming... Fantome Phonographique present a reissue of Jean-Jacques Perrey's Prélude Au Sommeil, originally released in 1958. Jean-Jacques Perrey was one of the earliest innovators in electronic music, creating a body of work spanning decades that has influenced everyone from Brian Eno to The Beastie Boys. One of the pioneers of musique concrète and electronic tape manipulation, Prélude Au Sommeil ("Prelude to Sleep") is Perrey's debut recording but shows a composer already at maturity. Originally released at the end of the fifties, as a private press under the fake institutional name "Institut Dormiphone", Prélude Au Sommeil consists of two side-long tracks played on the Ondioline (George Jenny's 1941 vacuum-tube based, spring-loaded electronic instrument). The music contained in this mysterious vinyl is like something between dreamy church organ hymns and the keyboard-based minimalism that Philip Glass and Terry Riley developed a decade later. The music of Prélude Au Sommeil was intended as sleep-inducing and tranquilizing for use in mental hospitals. It is unclear if the copies pressed actually had been distributed to mental hospitals or if the whole story was just a fantastical joke on the part of Mr. Perrey. This album is known as a precursor of what would later became known as "ambient music", 20 years before Brian Eno, the Kosmic Courier and the American minimalists. Something vaguely similar to Prélude Su Sommeil came about five years after its release, when in 1962 Epic Records produced the three volumes of Soothing Sounds For Baby from Raymond Scott. A droning/bubbling work of early electronic, Prélude Au Sommeil vacillates between playful and serious, light and dark, a truly beautiful piece from an icon of electronic music. Essential.

Aksak Maboul ‎– Figures (2020)

Style: Experimental, Alternative Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Crammed Discs

1-01.   Among The Naeporu
1-02.   C'Est Charles
1-03.   Taciturne
1-04.   Silhouettes
1-05.   True, False, Fictive
1-06.   Histoire De Fous
1-07.   Sophie La Bévue
1-08.   Formerly Known As Défilé
1-09.   How Should One Read A Book?
1-10.   Spleenétique
1-11.   Sgraffites
2-01.   The Untranslatable
2-02.   Retour Chez A.
2-03.   Dramuscule
2-04.   Excerpt From Uccellini
2-05.   Un Caïd
2-06.   Martial Arts For Boys
2-07.   Un Certain M.
2-08.   Ins Bleistiftgebiet
2-09.   Fatrasie Pulvérisée
2-10.   Qu'Est-Ce Que C'Est "Mot"?
2-11.   Tout A Une Fin

Co-producer – Faustine Hollander
Mixed By – Gregory Bauchau
Producer, Arranged By, Edited By – Marc Hollander
In 1977, Belgian avant-rock group Aksak Maboul went on hiatus for three decades while founding member Marc Hollander dedicated his time and efforts to overseeing his wonderfully eclectic Crammed Discs label. While thus hardly a break from music itself, the gap in the group's discography might explain why Aksak Maboul's first original release written in the 21st century is a jam-packed double album. Even after 2014's Ex-Futur Album (written in the early 1980s) and its 2016 reworking, there's still a lot of lost time to make up for in the Aksak Maboul catalog.

Fortunately, this is a group well-equipped to cover a lot of ground. On Figures, they manage to do so without losing control of the album's aesthetic cohesion, no easy feat over 22 tracks. Aksak Maboul work in highly stylized sonic layers, building unconventional connections between distinct parts, transformed in the creation of an entirely new whole.

Drilling down into Figures thus makes for an intriguing puzzle; taking it apart tells us deceptively little about the final product, but knowing the individual elements helps us nonetheless in navigating this soundscape. An easy entry point is one of the album's most consistent and prominent aspects: singer and longtime Aksak Maboul collaborator Véronique Vincent, whose coolly disaffected delivery evokes the airy modernity of nouvelle chanson. Critical in underscoring such allusions are Hollander's synths, constantly sliding between Baroque opulence and the sharply avant-garde. These same keys, by turn, hold down wavering fundamentals and solid melodies or wander into freeform jazz territory, always crucial to the shapeshifting that takes place throughout the album.

While voice and keyboards are always prominent, bass, guitar, and percussion are equally important in the making of Figures' full sound. The roles each instrument takes on vary, as do their positions relative to one another. Laid-back "Silhouettes" is balanced by thin, machine-based beats and a sturdy low end; orchestral strings join the mix, adding luxury to the tropical lounge vibes. "Formerly Known as Défilé" starts simply and then builds to a rock and roll pinnacle courtesy of blindingly bright electric guitars and winding reeds. Opening the second set of songs is "The Untranslatable", a short and exquisite work that begins with blissful melancholy on guitar that soon peels back to make room for jumpy synths and the hectic beats of the drum machine.

The album ends with the appropriately titled "Tout a une fin", a continuous montage that joins Figures together by taking one final, epic journey through the album's stylistic features: chanson, jazz, avant-garde, rock, and countless interstitial genres too liminal to name. This closing gradient makes for a particularly grand finale, a summary of Figures and a solidifying testament to Aksak Maboul's collective dedication to the eclectic as presented throughout the album. With Figures, Aksak Maboul unites experiences gathered over a lifetime of musical exploration and unites them into a single, fascinating beam of novel sounds in thought-provoking ways that sometimes border on perplexing. But this is, in the end, a good thing, as Aksak Maboul introduces the conscientious listener to new ways of sculpting classic sounds into unforgettable art.
Adriane Pontecorvo / popMATTERS

Perry Blake ‎– Perry Blake (1997

Style: Abstract, Downtempo
Format: CD
Label: Polydor

01.   Little Boys & Little Girls
02.   The Hunchback Of San Francisco
03.   1971
04.   Anouska
05.   Broken Statue
06.   Genevieve (The Pilot Of Your Thighs)
07.   So Long
08.   Naked Man
09.   Windows By The Radio
10.   Weeping True
11.   House In The Clouds

Strings Arranged By – Caroline Dale, Graham Murphy
Keyboards, Programmed By, Guitar – Graham Murphy
Strings – The London Metropolitan Orchestra
Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion, Producer – Perry Blake
Written-By – Graham Murphy, Perry Blake
Producer – Ross Cullum