Luc Ferrari - Cellule 75 [Tzadik - 1998]Luc Ferrari is one of the most influential figures in contemporary music today and one of the pioneers of Musique Concrete. His unique approach to this sometimes overly academic field of music is primarily artistic rather than research based. Much of his electronic work is centred around the concept of the audio photograph, using concrete and musical sounds to create a storytelling, cinematic approach that takes the listener on journeys to real and imaginary landscapes.
The two long pieces presented here demonstrate Ferrari’s powers to their full potential. The longest of the pieces and the albums title track is a tour-de-force of multi-disciplinary music that soundtracks the changing social political and musical attitudes during the 1970s, through it’s use of minimalism, abstract tape and piano playing and it’s compositional theory. Beginning with light tom percussion and fast repeating piano lines (from Chris Brown) the piece builds around the piano / percussion duels which shift emphasis from looping motifs to freeform playing as subtle droning and more lively electronics dance around. The Piano and percussion rhythms get more and more frenetic as the piece progresses emphasising the militaristic theme within Ferrari’s concept.Duncan Simpson
At around ten minutes the rhythms begin to break down into violent freeform playing and different percussive elements are brought into the mix by the percussionist Winant. At this point Ferrari’s trademark field recording and tape pieces begins to slip in, in the form of mechanical and distant sounds of movement. The instrumental parts subside briefly to allow a delicate mix of industrial sounds to make themselves known before Brown and Winant begin to retake centre stage, this time more jazzy and free in their improvisations. Hints of melody are thrown in as the atmosphere become more alive and lighter in tone. Sounds of people can be heard in the distance and the mood takes on a feeling of a late night Jazz bar in the suburbs of Paris. This doesn’t last very long however as the voices become strained and the music jagged and menacing once again. The last ten minutes shows Winant and Brown building up to a cacophonous rhythm of piano and drum as the tape fades away leaving just the two men hammering away harder and harder before the music collapses under it’s own weight.
The other piece is an electro-acoustic work titles Place Des Abbesses, named after a Paris square halfway up Montmartre. It is a very different work from the title track, containing none of the harsh instrumental passages and relying on a more sedate tape compositional process. Voice, drone, and electronic tones build a typically dreamy disjointed atmosphere where characters appear and disappear in Ferrari’s sound portrait. The sounds of a wedding party, musicians in the street, people going about their daily business and curious electro-acoustic textures combine to draw in the listener. Ferrari was one of, if not the first composer to use long pieces of field recordings as a major source of inspiration and material in music. Here despite being produced on relatively low budget technology his approach is starkly different to the work of say Xenakis, Henry, Stockhausen Etc around the same period. He has been described as the only true artist in an institution of researchers at the GRM, and I would tend to agree with that statement. He is still producing new and exciting works and collaborating with younger artists to bring new aspects to his sound pallet, and this album is a great starting point for anyone wanting to investigate his work.