Dusted Reviews

Xavier Charles - La Neige Attend La Neige

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Xavier Charles

Album: La Neige Attend La Neige

Label: A Bruit Secret

Review date: Feb. 11, 2004

La Neige Attend La Neige, Xavier Charles’ newest piece, seems to make a clear allusion to Bernhard Gunter’s Un Peu de Neige Salie, another album that often lays on the cusp of audibility and also mentions, not insignificantly, snow in the title. Charles does not make any mention of Gunter, though conceivably the title is a knowing tribute. Yet, in spite of this ambiguity, this release seems to prove just how much Gunter’s importance in contemporary electro-acoustic music is drastically downplayed, despite what seem like clear aesthetic reference points.

A Bruit Secret continues its series of 3” CDs with La Neige Attend La Neige, which despite some weaknesses, seems to fit perfectly into the A Bruit Secret catalog. Something about the concept and execution, the tiny CD format, the near silence that continually opens up to reveal an enveloping rumble, all seem to nicely fall in line with the Marcel Duchamp sculpture from which the record label derived its namesake.

The sculpture originally consisted of Duchamp’s friend, Walter Arensberg placing a small object into a ball of string, which was then sealed by two plates of brass. The identity of the object was then unknowable to Duchamp, a sound abstracted from any visual or physical association. Charles’ set-up, using speakers to vibrate certain surfaces, seems to directly deal with these sensations. Listening to the piece, we are blind to the actual object, yet the heavy rattling denotes a certain household sentiment, something readily available, non-“musical”, and ultimately resonant. There is a certain enigma in its familiarity, in the physics and in the recognizable, natural patterns of objects vibrating.

Charles apparently created this speaker-driven music as a culminating gesture to Toshi Nakamura’s work with a no-input mixing board and Max Neuhaus’ seminal microphone feedback studies. This remark conveniently ignores speaker music antecedents like Robert Ashley and Rolf Julius, which is somewhat important since La Neige Attend La Neige seems, at least slightly, a process piece, a conceptual and pre-selected arrangement of sounds, partially chosen for how they are obtained.

What seems so striking about La Neige Attend La Neige, and any number of other A Bruit Secret releases, is the sheer, almost deadpan, clarity presented in the 20-minute timeframe. In an allotted time, in a given 20 minutes, there will be four rumbles blended with searing high pitched sounds, and these rumbles will be spaced with durations of near silence. There is something beautifully practical and natural here, something that seems to truly de-emphasize any great composer aspirations and place focus on the sounds, in all their smallness.

Yet, as a release that is dictated by a preoccupation with quiet/loud dynamics, something more effectively dealt with on Julien Ottavi’s Nervure Magnetique release last year, and a timbral consistency that seems patently electro-acoustic. Despite the allegedly unconventional nature of the instrument, the focused sounds on La Neige Attend La Neige seem slightly unnecessary.

This isn’t to say they’re irretrievably derivative, or that the release is somehow unpleasant, but there is something distinctly unmemorable about this 3”, there is no sense of danger or challenge, there seems to be no criticism or pressing pertinence. Something about the straight-forwardness of the piece seems to betray Charles, even in the gracefulness of their arrangement. Where Gunter’s Un Peu de Neige Salie truly reflected that light-touch, that not-quite pristine sensibility of “a bit of soiled snow,” Charles’ “snow awaiting snow” seems to be a poetic allusion only, neglecting any of the visceral responsibility that the title entails.

By Matt Wellins

Read More

View all articles by Matt Wellins

Find out more about A Bruit Secret

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.