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CD Feature/ Ninth Desert: "Zone"

img  Tobias

While painters are never accused of continuing to work with brush, canvas and colours, the palette of a soundartist is always suspect to close scrutiny. One agonizing question lurks behind every tone and follows him into his dreams: Am I repeating myself? The case of Cyril Herry and his ninth desert project, however, is different. If we are worried about the amount of sleep he gets, then only because of his eclectically proliferating ouput, which includes the responsability for the design of the 3’’ Mini-CDs of French label Taalem, releases under various names in the context of his solo work and group efforts, as well as photography and writing. It is true that “Zone” is not reinventing the wheel and refers to the same set of expressions that have already led many other drone artists. But it is the way in which he applies these expressions that makes it a personal statement nonetheless.

Before he shakes things up, though, Herry first eliminates all but the most punchy elements from his music. Instead of weaving a tight net of interrelated effects, his arrangements are wide open, each note is a singular event which originates from the void, blooms and dies down again – like drops of water forming on and falling from the ceiling of a stalactite cave. There is nothing but a vacuum between them, carefully penetrated by his sharply edged drones, coming to the ear of the listener in successions of long breaths: “Zone” hovers high above the ground, floating in the upper resonances, which awards it a weightless and spacey feeling and makes no effort whatsoever of going somewhere in a hurry.

These are the foundations of the genre and Herry could have resigned himself to piecing them together in a skilfull manner, which would probably still have resulted in a respectable work. He doesn’t, however, and it is here that his album receives its clear outlines. In “strate”, the sounds whistle like birds inside a tropical rainforest or oil tankers entering the harbour bay from afar, its reverbed choes painting delicate melodies on the night sky. “marhbe” begins and ends with long stretches of silence and on “alke”, an ethereally distorted instrument squeals in pain – though it remains uncertain whether these are the feeble cries of a harmonica or an overblown flute. Ninth Desert, as it seems, it about using the timbral qualities of more or less well-known sounds and casually experimenting with their functionality. Especially the factor of playfulness can hardly be stressed enough. Even though tracks are serene and serious, they can never be pinned down to a single mood or interpretation.

There are even traces of humour and irony to be found – rare guests in these fields nowadays. At times, I had the impression as if the album as a whole and its general development was led by entirely different influences. Herry has even built in a grand finale, which for once works with the lower resonance space and ends in a concilliatory coda. His interest lies in making this world of stasis sing again, to turn his pieces from mere metaphors into jubilant, exultant celebrations, regardless of how stmospheric and secluded they may be on a first listen. With “Zone” he has come far in achieving this aim – and sailed clear of the dangers of repetition.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Ninth Desert
Homepage: Mystery Sea Records

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