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Vultures Quartet & Philippe Petit: Tourbillon D'obscurité

img  Tobias Fischer

Tourbillon D'obscurité, the 6th installment of Sub Rosa’s New Series Framework, pairs electro-acoustic sound artist Philippe Petit with UK-based noise improvisers Vulture Quartet. The music melds vintage synth sounds with washes of guitar distortion, mallet percussion, found-sound clanks, and manipulated field recordings (among many other elements impossible to separate from the uniformity of the sonic whole). The result is a set of sprawling textural collages, at times abrasive and mechanical, at other times chillingly psychological. Throughout, the collaboration is marked by intensely emotional playing, extreme dynamic range, and organic builds that give the music a sense of direction, even during its most abstract moments.

“Soufflé” begins as a soft mechanical hum framed by windchime-like timbres and synth swells. By the piece’s 3/4 point, after mutating through countless textural subtleties, and antiphonal found-sound interplay, the music swells to two deafening thunderclaps of motor-like sounds. The gesture is brief, occupying only a few seconds of the 8 ½ minute composition, but is enough to directionally anchor the preceding stream-of-consciousness wanderings.

This use of dynamic range is one of the most intriguing aspects of the record. “Poussière” opens with an extended silence followed by a quietly churning minimalist figure over a single sustained chord. By the composition’s halfway point, the music has snowballed into an explosive conglomerate of white noise, hiss and mechanical sounds. Then, for the piece’s final three minutes, the music melts to quiet woodwind punctuations, clicking found-sounds and bass rumbling. “Baiser Léger” floats dreamily over droning, microtonal bends before exploding into a claustrophobic mess of cymbals and hiss.

Tourbillon D'obscurité’s most ecstatic moment occurs with “Bec D’eau.” The album’s most melodic composition, its builds with hazy synth glisses into a blurred and sedate carnival sound somewhat reminiscent of Radiohead’s “Meeting In the Isles.” Chopped bass vocals murmur under washes of brushed metallic and spaceship sounds before settling into a quietly cinematic outro that conjures images of floating listlessly through space.

Throughout the entirety of its unending textural evolutions, Tourbillon D'obscurité never loses its emotional charge. This is music without much in the way of melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic anchor. And while Petite and Vulture Quartet are clearly master sound-sculptors, what makes Tourbillon D'obscurité compelling isn’t the manner in which disparate sounds are brought together into a seamless textural and otherworldly whole. Rather, it’s the intent apparent in every musical gesture: the slow builds, the instrumental interplay, and a psychological intensity that sucks you in and leaves you fascinated with the resultant feeling of discomfort.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Philippe Petit
Homepage: Vultures Quartet
Homepage: Sub Rosa Recordings

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