Boomkat Product Review:
Félicia Atkinson and Richard Chartier are the cover stars of the latest Portraits GRM edition, each of them approaching concrète minimalism from markedly different perspectives.
Atkinson's ‘Ni envers ni endroit que cette roche brûlante’ (neither back nor place but this burning rock) is dedicated to American modernist Georgia O'Keeffe, who famously used the harsh New Mexico landscape to inspire colourful, erotically charged abstractions. Atkinson describes her composition here as a meditation, rather than meditative music, and uses faint outcroppings of piano to punctuate subtle environmental recordings, exacting electronics and snatched spoken phrases. Her particular style has been sculpted to perfection over a dizzying run of albums for Shelter Press, the label she runs with Bartolomé Sanson, and here she sounds as if she's doing a victory lap, distilling her technique into mindful, evocative gestures.
'Ni envers...' elicits visions of O'Keefe's desert landscapes with delicate fiddle drones and windswept echoes. The piano startles us out of a daydream for a moment, bringing Atkinson fully into the frame, while pinprick electronics generate unstable rhythms that harmonise with bird calls and remote, found sounds. Atkinson's voice - spoken in French and English - guides us through the piece, anchoring our attention as its density increases over the duration. "I wish it was mine, the fireplace, the textile," she whispers over timpani hits and resonant bells, before the composition reaches its late-stage peak, erupting in corrosive, fractured noise.
Chartier's 'Recurrence.Expansion' offers a sharp contrast, opening with a gaseous drone that channels the energy of Thomas Köner's earliest, most vital gear. It's sub bass that grounds this one, rumbling through the composition - which was originally written for 26 speakers - providing focus and weight to Chartier's pacific sibilances. Serene feedback tones offer an air of mystery, but it's the tiniest sounds that keep us coming back. Anyone who's heard Chartier's run of classic Line albums like 'Of Surfaces' and 'Two Locations' will know how effortlessly he's able to enhance the detail of microscopic high-pitched scrapes and crackles, and it's these elements that sprinkle psychoacoustic dust over his deliberately austere sustained tones.
Both pieces use abstraction and meticulous sound design to drag us outside the real, and into the sublime.