Les Hommes-Chiens - Tetramorphe [Self Release - 2013]
This smartly packaged tape comes in a jewel case, with a simply designed inlay - essentially four strong images, with no apparent link between them. They might correspond to the four improvisations contained in the cassette, but there’s no indication that they do. (Though the internet tells me that a tetramorphe is “a symbolic arrangement of four differing elements, or the combination of four disparate elements in one unit”, which would certainly suggest the images correlate to tracks…) Either way, “Tetramorphe” adds up to nearly an hour of dark improvisations by a duo referred to as “F. & J.”.
As is often the case in this area of things, the efforts of the duo result in a music where responsibilities and roles are hard to define. There are sections where there are clearly separate and opposable elements occurring, but often its a more unified sprawl of sound - not a bad thing at all. The pervading thrust of the time is overwhelmingly linear, either via drone or via repetitive rhythms - this isn’t a tape of dynamics, shock tactics or lightning interactions. So, Les Hommes-Chiens’ improvisations can be crudely described as having two main ingredients: dark drone and rhythmic devices. The drone side of things is dominated by warm, noisy synth reverberations; exemplified by the first track which builds from a wide, expansive, ominous drone to include restrained, near-shrieking, skyward synth lines. The remaining three pieces all use overt rhythmic elements to a greater or lesser degree. The second, shorter, track has a shifting beat; constructed from a bass pulse and a snappy wooden, echoed hit - whilst the third piece has a twisting beat combining with a mesmeric two-note march (it actually runs the danger of being very dark and languid “trip-hop” - like a very tired Witchman). The last improvisation has a loop which comes into view from time to time, as well as a bass line with unfortunate space/stoner rock associations. Around and in between these drones and rhythms, more detailed, responsive instruments can be heard; with traces of violin, percussion and tape warble coming into play. As the last track builds to noisier climes and draws to a close, junk shrieks accompany the low, obliterating rumbles and flailing synths.
This is certainly an interesting project, though one perhaps caught between two stools: the kinetic activity of some of the playing arguably detracts from the “drone” aspect, whilst the overwhelmingly droney/linear feel of the release “traps” those more more kinetic elements. Nevertheless, this is an interesting tension to explore, and a fruitful one. “Tetramorphe” has an archaic feel to it at times, bringing to mind the seminal “Forbidden Planet” soundtrack, as well as early industrial experimentation like Cabaret Voltaire; it wouldn’t be too out of place as a very sombre Chocolate Monk release… This is perhaps best recommended as a “wildcard” to those interested in dark ambient/drone.Martin P