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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Lasse-Marc Riek - Saison Concrète [Semperflorens - 2011]

Lasse-Marc Riek is a German composer of deep listening works, and a strong proponent of field recordings. He has released several albums, as well as co-founding the Gruenrekorder label, which specializes in field recordings. This album from 2011, "Saison Concrète", contains a single piece, 44 minutes in length.  Like many such albums, it is a very quiet and subtle album.  It is no use trying to listen to this album on your stereo: headphones and a quiet listening environment are required.

The only other album I had heard by Lasse-Marc Riek, titled "Harbour", was purely field recordings, and apparently unedited, as far as I could tell.  So, it is with wonderment that I discover the lush synthesis of organic and electronic texture, of natural and human input, that exists on "Saison Concrète".

It takes several minutes for the piece to reach its full volume.  At first there is only the hushed rain of a white day.  Ghostly drowned chords rise up from beneath, and draw us from this place that felt so familiar to me into a digital maw of endless reverb tails possessing an unreal smoothness of movement.

There are certainly elements here which could have been found on "Harbour": around the 10 minute mark, we hear the creaking and groaning of ropes pulled periodically taut by the lapping of waves, and rain (again), with greater intensity this time.  Soon, we are among the waves, inside the cresting waves, and many seagulls are fiercely crying at once, as if squabbling over a carcass.  This is closer to the sea than we got on "Harbour".

The piece takes a surreal turn as the black velvet pure tones of bells and gongs are struck, first in a vacuum, and then with the odd accompaniment of bustle and conversation, the sounds of a crowded festival.  After this, we are inexplicably honed in on the sound of a buzzing bee, trapped in a box or light fixture, and fades in the swarm, massive and ominous, especially in the closeness of headphones.  All of these sounds are masterfully miced and recorded.

In fact, the recording quality is so flawless that at one point I became convinced that the garbage truck heard at the 25 minute mark (hissing, beeping, stopping and starting) had actually pulled up on my street until the pause the CD to make sure.  At this point the piece is at its most cacophanous, as grey shrouds of spiralling granular synth engulf the listener in a Coil-esque fashion.

The album is quite listenably paced; every couple of minutes the sound changes, often drastically.  The abstract narrative formed by the disparate sections seems somehow profound, yet entirely outside the realm of typical musical 'emotion'.  Many of these, afterall, are natural sounds, which are ultimately the most complex of all, and seem to consistently and endlessly fascinate while eluding clear interpretation.

The ending is truly odd: loud, jarring carousel music circles around us for the last couple of minutes, and it's hard to tell whether one should interpret this with a sincere and sentimental frame of mine, or a cynical, ironic one.

The only comparable album I've heard is Steve Roden's "Berlin Fields", a similarly structured 40 minute patchwork of myriad contrasting environments and electronic manipulations.  Like "Berlin Fields", "Saison Concrète" is a masterwork that proves the infinite potential of this genre.  Anyone with a decent set of headphones should pick this up immediately.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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