Richard Chartier - Recurrence [Line - 2012]Here’s yet another impeccably delivered dose of minimalist speaker abuse, on the Line label. The simple card slipcase gives the release an elegance and also a clean, “academic” feel; intensified further by the front cover - a close-up detail of a pencil “scribble”. (I use “scribble” as the most effective description - not as a value judgement on the artist’s work!) This scribble contains some of the ideas of “Recurrence”: layers, subtle differences in shade, clean singularity and entanglement, and lines (straight and bending). Chartier gives us two long tracks, one just over twenty minutes and the second just over fifty.
Those of you au fait with Chartier’s previous works, will have some idea what to expect here; but for those uninitiated to his seismic talents, we’re in the realms of glacially-paced drones, tones, hums and throbs - sometimes visceral, sometimes piercing. In the crudest terms, its an electroacoustic take on isolationism: something that will test your speakers and hearing. The most immediate element of this, is the extreme low end across the cd - you’ll feel it more than you hear it. Its one of those cds where if you pause it during an apparently “silent” passage, the actual silence of your environment will suddenly emerge: it was not, after all, a silent passage. Pausing and unpausing the cd during these same sections will also produce clipping from your speakers - like I said, “Recurrence” contains seriously subterranean tones.
This is a difficult music to sum up neatly in a few words. Chartier slowly unfolds frequencies and tones, in the barest way imaginable - though the final section of “Recurrence (series)” does contain several sudden, thick swellings. Indeed, this second track is to some extent a series of landmark events, in a sea of drifting tones - whereas “Recurrence (room/crosstones)”, the first piece, concentrates more on simpler drones and truly monstrous bass frequency upheavals. So its a rigorous music, overtly concerned with sound and the physical nature itself of hearing; but its also very much a spatial music - both in the sense of the spaces that it creates and also in the way that it confronts the listener with their spatial environment. It is, in the best way possible, sometimes an “alien” music; which makes a few “recognisable” elements all the more interesting. There are a couple of moments where somewhat “ambient pad” type sounds emerge (once in “Recurrence (room/crosstones)”, and a couple of times in “Recurrence (series)”) and these “dark ambient” and “choral/vocal” drones rather jolt the listener and obscure the crypticness even further. Indeed, around the eleven-minute mark in the second piece, a small rhythmic motif is repeated: its not remotely “techno”, but the barest nod towards that area of music adds incredible colour, as well as confounding our expectations.
Like the other Chartier releases I have heard, this is a great piece of sound work. Rigorous and austere, but compelling all the while on the most sensual level. As you’ll have realised, its a music which rewards careful listening (and frankly a good stereo system); but for all the academic trappings and connotations, there remains a genuine warmth and humanity at its heart.Martin P