Boomkat Product Review:
Major new work from GRM director François Bonnet (aka Kassel Jaeger), featuring recent "Portraits GRM" stars Lucy Railton and Jim O’Rourke and filtering eerie drones and tones into a shapeless but deep-hitting rumble of waterlogged sound. It's a hypnotic, deeply human album that enshrines Bonnet's memories in layer upon layer of tonal mud; if we dig too deep or concentrate too hard, we are ourselves become engulfed in the swamp, part of the opera. Highly recommended listening if yr into Iancu Dumitrescu, Richard Lerman, Jimmy O'Rourke.
When Bonnet was a child, he would venture out every Sunday to his favorite spot in the countryside: a swamp. Years later, he has composed a drone opera to memorialize these pivotal early moments, drawing a parallel between his love of the swamp and his own musical output, which was described by a teacher as swamp-like. "I guess because of the lack of demonstrative musical shapes and articulations," Bonnet admits.
Regaled with an awesome capacity for inducing ur states of trance, and just as likely to rip you out of it and off onto darker paths, ‘Swamps / Things’ blurs the line between the organic and synthetic, as instruments are contorted to sound like synthesizers and heaving pulses take on the character of orchestral flourishes. Layers of sound come on in diffracted waves of elemental and perplexing emotions that speak to Bonnet's remarkable breadth of vision as much as his rich palette. In a sense, he extends his role as artistic director of the GRM to a metaphorical director of sound in a mostly instrumental and multi-dimensional opera whose meaning may be elusive, but whose dramaturgy is enacted in the most absorbing, ravishing ways.
"Sound is abstract. When the source is elusive, narrative and meaning shift between the concrete and obscure. With his first solo LP with Shelter Press, Swamps/Things, Kassel Jaeger wades into this foggy, conceptual realm. From memory and metaphor - sliding fluidly through the imagistic and emotive - emerges an immersive, cavernous world that rethinks electroacoustic music on organic terms.
‘Swamps/Things’ was conceived as an opera without distinct characters or text. It draws Kassel Jaeger into his own history, experiences, and the unlikely double of the swamp, a landscape that has held literal and metaphorical sway over him since childhood. Merging 8 works as a total environment, abstaining from distinct shape or discrete articulation, across the album's breadth, sound becomes a shifting mirror for the bubbling, ordered chaos of organic life.
Resting at the junction of concept, emotion, and phenomena - tapping the multidimensional potential for narrative and meaning possessed by each - Swamps/Things encounters an artist of remarkable craft, delving toward the unknown, deploying organized sonority as object and environment, as much as action, movement, passage, and arc. Seemingly possessed by an entropy entirely its own, the temporal gives way to the poetics of space, while the density of an endlessly evolving climate, laden with cacophonous happenings, renders itself still. Flickering images of the natural world - memory and the imagined reformed as sound - present an operatic double for human action and thought. From deep, fog like banks of minimalist long tone, to industrial clamors left as tracks in the mud, or the collisions of shifting pulses, overtones, and textures - captured from across the murky, drone laden waters between the acoustic and synthetic realms - moody, howling cries and tense meditations merge in ambient sheets, capturing a fleeting image of where decomposition gives way to new growth.
A remarkably intimate and forward-thinking aural balm, bristling with complex beauty, Shelter press is overjoyed to present Kassel Jaeger’s Swamps/Things. Two immersive, intoxicating sides overflowing with humanity and ideas."