Le Cébron / Statics and Sowers
(Aussenraum Records 2014)
Review by Chris Whitehead
I like surfaces. They make things what they are and without them we can’t have depths, because to be deep is to be a long way from the surface in a downward direction, and we need a point to measure from. Surfaces are boundaries between different states of being. The ice on a frozen lake is solid and it divides the gas above and the liquid below and it glints in the winter light and it creaks as the wind buffets it.
The 12″ circle of vinyl that these sounds are embedded in is itself a round lake surface, because it is opalescently ice coloured. A translucent cypher for the subject matter within. Indeed my copy has a dark line running through the material from the outer edge to the central hole, making the record a picture of imminent fracture, of breakage and fissure, like a crack from the perimeter firing through to the core.
In the apprehending of le Cébron (musique concrète du dehors), named after the lake on which it was made, the surface feels tense as a drum skin, stretched and taut as it responds to the actions of Sylvain, Phillipe and Julien – credited here for ‘crashing the ice’. At times sounds reminiscent of those produced in recordings of wire fences or sprung metal are created. The brittleness and hardness of this frozen medium highlights the solidity of it, and yet the ease with which it is broken points out its impermanence. Without doubt it will become thin, disseminate and dissolve into a fluid state with the passage of time.
In small detonations of crackling animation, shards splinter and slide and sprawl and unfold and abrade against each other across the stereo field. Attack and decay made tactile.
Thomas Tilly has angled the work to reflect the truth that this frozen water is completely dependent on the liquid beneath on which it floats and the air above remaining cold enough to sustain it. As ice is forcibly broken the water under it readjusts itself after the trauma by gurgling and trickling back to its predetermined equilibrium again. In the air above waterfowl call quietly in the gently shifting air.
With each side of vinyl devoted to a single track, the second composition, Statics and sowers (for Zbigniew Karkowski) walks the ephemeral tightrope between the worlds of insect produced sound and electronic emission. It has always been a mainstay of the lazy reviewer to equate the clicks and glitchery of electrons coursing through silicon components to the scrapes and buzzes of insects’ beating wings and rhythmic abrasions. There is a tension between these sounds. Tilly plays with the tension and avoids getting stung.
Immediately the record begins spinning we are dropped into a maelstrom of buzzing bees, a cricket-like clicking forms from below and exists for a while as a symbiotic factor. Oh yes, we are certainly in thrall to the laws of the apian colony, but as if leaking through the hive walls electrical manifestations creep in. Like the free scrawl and crosshatching of Jean-Luc Guionnet’s drawings which adorn the cover, hive life is busy and highly kinetic.
After some time a drop into a plasma field occurs and the insects circle the outside but are never let in. Clouds of luminous vapour and bristling molecules float impermanently. They fade. Their existence is brief. The bees return.
Throbbing obliteration occurs later, suddenly and loudly in a fluctuating and deep envelopment. A connection is broken after several minutes of heavy vortex and with a final glitch-burst the clear air returns. All that remains is the lingering of background static, a few trails of fading squall and of course the bees.
Aussenraum only release vinyl and they do it with great thought, and removing this artefact from the turntable I’m reminded again of the frozen lake. The record is ice, a frozen lake. But outside the sun is shining, and a bee is noisily arguing with the glass in the window. I open the window slightly and carefully guide it out. I watch it fly over the fence and across the street and finally disappear.