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4 compositions
  • The ensemble’s driving force, Nicolas Bernier, asked four different composers to write pieces for his group (of more than a dozen people) to perform on his collection of analog machines. The composers tasked with writing music for oscillators were Xavier Menard, Francisco Meirino, Kevin Gironnay (of the group Unmapped), and Candas Sisman. I’m not sure whether Bernier directed the composers to treat the machines as dry sine-tone generators, but that’s what they all did. Across four pieces lasting around an hour, the electronic signals are not processed to disguise the nakedness of their natural state. That limitation works in small doses, maybe one piece at a time, but the shallow depth of the component sounds gets tough to listen to for the album’s duration. Menard’s piece, “Etats Alteres”, is a growling monster of competing tones and sharp left-turns. The piece cycles through all the gestures you might expect unprocessed oscillators to be capable of (piercing highs, aggressive swooping glissandos) but it ultimately works. On the next piece, Kevin Gironnay’s “Ignis Fatuus (Solis)” clusters the tones close together, creating graceful arcs and beating patterns that end in a jarring flatulence. Francisco Meirino, a composer with a well-documented attraction to antagonistically high tones, delivers precisely that his “Shaping Things (A Simple Spectrum)”. The opening minutes of Meirino’s piece allow those upper frequencies to frolic in painful territory for longer than you (read: I) might be comfortable with, then segues into a passage pitting dentist-drill squeal against woofer-taxing whoosh. The last piece, “SYN-Phon”, actually came from a graphic score interpreted by the ensemble and it’s the most dramatically varied of the lot. On this piece, the oscillators bleep and chirp and leap about in small event-driven clusters that somehow resemble the phrasing of “free improv”. That humanity is a welcome relief, coming as it does at the tail end of an album that’s so fully committed to its austere sound-world. (

  • Under the artistic direction of Nicolas Bernier the Montréal-based Ensemble d’oscillateurs delivers some compelling sonic sinewaves. On États altérés the lows are so sunken it makes the floor quake a little. This work, composed by Xavier Ménard(2017), it reminds me of dial-up tones for internet access that we left in the 90’s. The atmosphere is minimal and quite spare – though this resonates in a sneaky way. Translated from the French this refers to ‘altered states’ and by the way in which the soundwaves are being split it does feel like an experiment on the human psyche. The final minutes shifts with a layered feedback, static, white noise – drawn in parallel lines. Testing….testing. Kevin Gironnay‘s 2016 piece Ignis Fatuus (Solis) explores the coastering waves of a single note, a bit animated and bright. The reverb is mostly kept to a minimum as he layers two frequencies upon each other, along with a low rumbling drone. It instantly makes me think of sounds that would be associated with modern dance for some unexplained reason. The movements, up and down, slowly shrinking like a flower after sunlight. An industrial flutter enters as surface noise but slowly starts to obliterate the other layers in its mass. He’s tuning in and out from various playful frequencies, awkwardly bending tones into sinewaves that only non-human species might perceive. The sounds of falling from above, simply falling are provocative. Next is a brand-new work from Francisco Meirino titled Shaping Things (A Simple Spectrum). Instead of falling, his tonal acoustics are rising high. The listener is made to feel both at a distance and brought right upon the velocity of the action. It reminds me some of fireworks, the type the rise and fall in droopy bright patterns across and black sky. All the microsounds here set this apart from the typical ear-splitter by balancing the ultra vibrant highs with the active muffled bottom end. This is not the record for the casual listener, best appreciated by those who can understand composed noise. Goin’ up! Lastly is SYN-Phon by Candaş Şişman (2013-18), it’s a collective arrangement of a graphic score used with his permission. This one is a bit brassy in the low range, as in that sound made by many jazz drummers when using the very fine edge of a symbol to conjure a sound. Though here there’s this sizzling electronic wave of feedback and revved purr that is incredibly infectious. By and far my standout track of these selections as it mimics computer bleeps and controllers – keeping a certain circumstantial human vs bot feel. It’s where technology is headed, so we must face the reality of the future now. ‘Syn’ which is short for synthetic I’d guess in this case seems to be a play on artificial sounds, invented, and synthesized. The tiny sounds and silences are like explorer units set to do, or mimic for or like humans. It’s an animated, at times spat out, computated set of manufactured sounds that’s also a cerebral mix offering this unique percussive, vibrating tickle. (