Boomkat Product Review:
Eliane Radigue’s visionary, subliminal 1970 masterpiece is back in circulation, offering a beguiling musical experience in the transition from acoustic keys to etheric electronic feedback realms.
Without direct comparison to anything that came before, or after, it; ‘Opus 17’ signals the close of a period of singular experimental creativity during which Radigue dematerialised the properties of music into a bold new language of texture and sonic phenomena. For various reasons, ‘Opus 17’, like much of Radigue’s now-prized ouevre, remained a preserve of avant-garde loft space performances and archives at the time, and it would be decades before she received the acclaim due to her work. With the benefit of hindsight, it's perhaps understandable in the context of the elemental, geologic imperceptibility of her music, which takes listeners time to fully cotton onto, but once snagged there’s no turning back - perceptions of musical possibility become irrevocably altered.
For newcomers to Radigue’s infinite macrocosm, ‘Opus 17’ remains an ideal point of departure into an ocean of sound that includes some of the C.20th’s most mystifying recordings, such as her ‘Trilogie De La Mort’ (as found on INA-GRM’s essential boxset ‘Œuvres Électroniques’) and the incredible ‘Transamorem - Transmortem’. The five pieces of ‘Opus 17’ find Radigue at a height of her powers, glacially unweaving an elegant piano phrase of the opening ‘Étude’ over the proceeding 90 minutes (which may feel like much, much longer) thru the envelopes of a Buchla 100 series synthesiser at NYU. With nanoscopic fine motor control, she allows the phrase to decay, sublimate and combs its timbral artefacts thru the wires until the parts sing a remarkably altered song that seemingly feels like the room singing to itself. Of course we could draw lines to Alvin Lucier’s work here, but there’s something more peculiar, inexplicable at work in Radigue’s transitions between passages that is practically the definition of subtlety when it comes to drone music.
When you find yourself fully in the middle of it, or when the music stops and real life, normal temporality returns, the effect can be little short of epiphanic, leaving you wondering where the heck you’ve been for the duration. While Radigue’s music has practically become a byword for the enigma of drone music at its most powerful, there are many who’ve yet to succumb to her beautifully wilting, palpably transportive and transformative work. We envy them for what they’re about to encounter...