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France Jobin - The Illusion of Infinitesi​mal [Baskaru - 2014]

France Jobin is an up and coming deep listening and avant garde soundscape artist whose 3rd album was recently released on Baskaru, titled "The Illusion of Infinitesimal".  I heard her 2012 album "Valence" a while back, and wasn't entirely able to enjoy or connect with it, giving it a mixed review.

The key word here is 'distant' - no amount of volume increase applied to these sounds would bring them near to the listener...  they are faint whisps, delicate remnants of decaying reverbs.  The average synthscape ambient album is a gushing torrent of sound compared to this hushed recording.  Without a doubt, this is 'deep listening'... likely many listeners would insist there are no sounds on this disk at all!  Do not bother unless you have a quiet and environment and an audiophile soundsystem.

The oddest thing about this album is the way its first several minutes mimic Jobin's previous album, "Valence".  I actually had to check and make sure I hadn't accidentally started playing that album in this one's stead.  "Valence" was characterized by the same kind of whispy, not-quite-there atmosphere as this album, but also strangely constant, piercing high pitched tones which utterly ruined the ambient / chillout potential of the entire album, and prevent the recording from being played at any substantial volume for fear of actual physical pain.  For this reason, I didn't give "Valence" a very positive review.  These same piercing, inexplicably jarring synthetic tones appear again within just a couple of minutes of this album beginning.

Luckily, they do have less of a constant presence on this album.  After a couple of minutes, the dog whistle tones fade away and a pleasant ambience reigns for the rest of the 27 minutes.  In the 15 minute second piece, they are wholly absent.  This track, "0", is my favorite I've heard thus far from France Jobin, a genuinely pleasant and inviting soundspace.

The major difference between this and the previous album is Jobin's apparent increased fascination with tape loops.  Unlike the previous album, which was totally vaporous, sonically empty, and without familiar human reference point, this album has several audible snippets of instrumental playing and melody that lend a vital human element to it.  Warmly filtered fragments of piano and guitar repeat for many minutes in a hypnotic cadence that should be familiar to anyone who has listened to William Basinski.

The high pitched tones appear again, harsher than before, at the beginning of the 3rd track.  And once again, they give way to a quavering, sensitive domestic drone, a soundtrack to insecure 3AM thoughts, which gradually swells to the string dominant lushness of 80's Steve Roach.  I am not sure what effect Jobin hopes to achieve by juxtaposing these things, but the truth is, it will prevent me from ever listening to this album again.  As a person who plans to listen to an enormous amount of music in the future, I value my hearing.

I respect this album, and parts of it are wonderful, but these parts are always counterbalanced with painful, digital coldness and pure synthetic tones within a few minutes.  As an ambient recording, it is grating, and could even be used as a torture device at high volumes.  I respect the fact that "The Illusion of Infinitesimal" is a complimentary spiritual successor to "Valence", but since I couldn't enjoy that album either, I'm conflicted about this one.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Josh Landry
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