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Richard Chartier & Robert Curgenven - Built Through [Line - 2012]

Extreme electronic minimalist / Line label founder Richard Chartier and Australian avant garde composer / field recordist have teamed up for "Built Through", something of a bizarre take on a 'remix album'.  Each has taken sound material recorded by the other and processed it through a number of experimental means.  Focused primarily around droning, synthetic hums, the result goes beyond ambient or soundscape music into some kind of experimental sound research.

The artists intentionally avoid the frequency bands in which 99% of music exists, receding instead to the fringes of the spectrum, solely utilizing barely audible frequencies that are more felt than heard, from bone rattling sub-bass to piercingly high pitched dog whistle tones.  It can be extremely uncomfortable, particularly in the last piece "Acquisition Eviction".

Though certainly only for the most adventurous of listeners, the album makes up for its at times unpleasant physical effect by using this strange power in a fascinating and evocative narrative manner.  Fans of Coil's "Time Machines", The Hafler Trio or other creators of mind/body manipulating psychedelic tone research should not be disappointed by this music, though it may require more patience and silence to be effective than the work of the aforementioned artists.

Quite subtle at all times, the songs are actually packed with small details, peaks and valleys within the modulating hums and circular cascades of tiny pops (a Chartier signature).  Within the long running times of the pieces are countless cleverly hidden gestures and movements.  However, the humanity and emotion behind the sound can be difficult to detect, and it can be said to possess the same austere, alien quality of Stockhausen, which tends to leave me wondering, "Why these sounds?  Why this shape?".  Perhaps the composers themselves do not know, and are just as bewildered as me.  There is real intentionality to the structures, but suffice to say it is abstract and assigning any specific meaning to it would be impossible.  Each track maintains a meandering, non-linear arc.

The descriptions of the processes used to create the sounds are so strange as to be outlandish; almost unbelievable.  "Original composition by Chartier.  Processed through three improvisations for 16 foot pipe organ, recorded in Cornwall" reads the description of the 1st track.   Does this imply that one recording was modulated by the other, or that they were simply combined?  This is not clear.  The actual sound of the track is a throbbing, dissonant drone, possibly a number of sounds smoothed over and blurred together.  "Processed through guitar feedback recorded by Curgenven, turntables and linear series dubplates", reads the 2nd track.  The fact that such complex means were used to make these disembodied, coldly unwelcoming resonances, which, by their sound, could just as easily be purely synthetic, is just as baffling as the sounds themselves.

In conclusion, this recording has a powerfully transporting effect on the mind, and is a complex and layered construction.  Where does it take you?  To a place beyond emotion, structure, literal meaning and, perhaps, enjoyment or pleasure.  I recommend it to psychedelic explorers and those curious about the limits of music and sound.  I have long respected Chartier for pushing music into realms most could never imagine, let alone find the patience to explore.  His music is something I can take in only rarely, but serves perfectly as a palette cleanser, and a reminder of how far out the limits really are.  Robert Curgenven, with his unheard of methods of processing, by all indications possesses the same inventive spirit.  I can't fault anything about "Built Through", which I doubt could have been intended to be any less challenging than it is.

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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