U13 | Bruno Duplant | Quelques usines fantômes
format : CD ltd to 200 hand numbered copies
release year : 2012
length : 63’25
status : still available
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(Belgium) : 13 € (inc.postage)
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~dedicated to Toshiya Tsunoda~
: info :
As a listener, I’m always intrigued as to what attracts me or doesn’t with regard to works in the field recording vein. The same applies to other areas of music as well, of course, but it’s especially interesting in these works composed of sounds generally taped on site and, to a lesser or greater degree, assembled back in the studio. They’re simply sounds, after all, more or less what I could hear on my own by concentrating on my surroundings at any given moment (allowing for different sources from different locations) which I often do anyway. Why be so absorbed by someone else’s impressions?
Two things, I think, at least. One is a basic affinity with the assembler as far as particular sounds that he or she finds beautiful, fascinating, notable, resonant. As much as one might consciously think that such hierarchies are entirely beside the point, there remains that nagging tendency, whether culturally or genetically inculcated, to prefer one sound, or combination of sounds, to another, at least to the extent one hasn’t fully assimilated Cage et. al., often a more difficult, thornier task than readily admitted. Second is the way these sounds are ordered, layered and contrasted, certainly as subjective a judgment, but one having to do with an appreciation of the composer’s poetic sense, in the perceived “rightness” of the sequence of sounds, ultimately not so different, I think, to one’s enjoyment of post-AMM improvisation.
Though I’d heard examples of this approach since college days, the first such music to really make a strong impression on me was probably Luc Ferrari’s “Presque Rien”, and shortly thereafter, Toshiya Tsunoda’s “Scenery of Decalcomania”. They certainly, for me, contained the two elements described above and, more, evoked an extremely realsense of place, in the manner that I hear things, a very self-centered view, but one I think comes part and parcel when listening to work in this area. Over the years, hearing countless examples of field recording as it has become more and more pervasive (often mixed with live improvisation, sometimes set to disc untouched, often manipulated in the studio), I’ve often questioned myself as to why this example failed to move me while that one did. It’s usually very hard to quantify, somehow even more so than determining the relative value in a free instrumental performance.
I was thinking through this while listening to Bruno Duplant’s “Quelques usines fantômes” (which would be translated into English as “some ghost factories”). Why is this particular collection and distribution of sounds so appealing? They seem to have been drawn, largely, from a waterside area, perhaps a canal, not an overly busy one but where a certain amount of activity is taking place, maybe early in the morning a la Ferrari’s classic work. Duplant eschews going for overt watery sounds, contenting himself with low-level, subtle lapping, the soft creaks of hull on wooden piers, the gentle puttering of a small outboard motor, etc. These serve as the spine of the piece and are consistent throughout (after the first few minutes, at least), another aspect I tend to find compelling: choosing a given sound world and sticking to it, investigating its features in detail, allowing it time to generate a larger effect than mere sonics. There are plenty of other sounds, to be sure: metal objects dropping to the floor, unidentifiable hums, an odd, theramin-like wavering tone, wind billowing in enclosed spaces—at least this is how I hear them; who knows their actual source? But that’s of no import; one accepts this world, which is a basic thing for me. As in any good story or film, the reader/viewer has to accept the presented world as valid, as internally consistent, as “real” at least in the mind of its creator. “Quelques usines fantômes”, whether one picks up on the spirits being manufactured or not, readily achieves this. One is immersed in the world, deriving both sensual enjoyment and, more, generating one’s own narrative, trusting that one is on solid ground. The periodic, electronic-sounding hums that surface give the world a bit of a science fiction or otherworldly sheen, perhaps appropriate given the work’s title, though it’s those real world sounds that anchor the piece for me. Duplant has said he wanted to create a “between world” and I think he has.
A full, rich work then, one of the better things I’ve heard in this lineage in recent years and very much worth losing oneself in.”
(Brian Olewnick, May 2011)
: reviews :
Finding it quite difficult to review this album.Not because it’s bad, certainly not, but just because it keeps slipping away from me.
Sonically it’s very much an Unfathomless release filled with nocturnal, textural explorations. It’s got a strange mix of feeling like it was recorded from the sounds of the great wide outdoors but is presented with a chillingly hermetic, claustrophobic and, well, wet sort of vibe to it.
It’s an intriguing recording particularly due to it’s elusiveness but one that has rewarded with each listen.
Any object or entity we come into contact with is surrounded by allusions and ideas. They form layers in a cloud around it, and by peeling them away and considering them we may eventually get to the core, the essence of the subject.
In any created work some of these layers are placed there by the artist who may wish to project emptiness, warmth, space or any number of feelings into or onto the audience. In painting pigments are layered over each other, often a background can be perceived upon which the vision of the artist takes shape. If sound is the chosen medium, silence is the background, the blank canvas, the empty disc, the file without content that needs to be populated.
Some layers of allusion are provided by the observer or listener, the person who comes upon the object in order to glean some meaning from it. These layers are memories, feelings, histories and assumptions, sometimes linked and sometimes not linked to what the manufacturer, designer or artist was attempting to achieve.
I grew up in the great English steel producing city of Sheffield. Although we lived some considerable distance from the industrial core, I remember with great clarity lying in bed at night listening to the faint but rhythmic hammering sounds of the forges.
Once it was possible to be enthralled by a walk around the steel works. The sights, sounds and smells of deep industry constituted a sustaining lifeblood for the city. Glowing furnaces and black interiors, men’s voices dwarfed by the clatter and scrape of raw metal, this was after all Sheffield’s reason to exist.
Succumbing to political and economical tides, by the 1980s many of these factories became silent and derelict. Production stopped and a grey pall held sway. Life seemed to have been sucked out of the city. It was to all intents and purposes the end of the era of manufacturing. Steel stopped being melted, rolled, hammered and cut to be made into ships, cars, cutlery and engines. Companies closed, workers were made redundant and the meaning of Sheffield changed forever.
Bruno Duplant’s Quelques usines fantômes depicts ghost factories. Factories bigger than the room you are listening to the CD in. Huge metal foundries where work is taking place, but the workers never speak. The silence on which these scenes are painted is never disturbed by human interaction, only the sparse incursion of metal on metal or the breath of cold wind and furnace blast.
Phantoms without substance are carrying out these activities, often in distant parts of the plant. Close by a pipe clangs like a cemetery bell whilst in a dark adjacent workspace some coal-like material is being emptied from a container into a pile on the stone floor.
Duplant forms space and darkness from his building blocks. He positions discrete sounds carefully and never overwhelms the listener with a monstrous industrial roar. This is much more subtle. It isn’t industrial music, it is ghost music. The industry has gone, but the sounds are preserved as memories, phantoms, spirits emanating like vapours from dead factory walls and floors.
The success of this piece to me is the way the layers of meaning Duplant has carefully laminated into Quelques usines fantômes interlace with the layers of memory and experience I as the listener bring to the work.
To me it is a walk round Sheffield after the closures. A certain sadness, a sense of loss, a sense that something has forever vanished. Almost as if during pitch black, still nights, if you listened carefully enough and pressed an ear to a derelict, long abandoned foundry floor in any city or town, the emergence of this haunted music might not seem such a far fetched occurrence.
Of course I speak subjectively. Clearly you will clothe this evocative and fascinating composition with your own personally nuanced mantle of significance.
The Field Reporter
Où est-on? que fait-on? dehors? à l’intérieur d’une usine? dans un studio? entend-on des sons préenregistrés? Bruno joue-t-il avec des objets glanés dans une usine désaffectée? Toutes sortes de questions affluent en écoutant ce très étrange disque. Des questions sur les sources (difficilement identifiables pour la plupart), sur le but, et la forme. Heureusement, le titre peut donner quelques éléments. A partir de lieux réels (usines), mais désaffectés, Bruno donne son interprétation d’un certain espace sonore. Car les fantômes ne sont rien d’autres que des projections humaines, des interprétations de la vie d’un lieu. Sauf qu’ici, les fantômes deviennent du son, deviennent de l’art sonore. Formellement, les trois pièces ressemblent à un mélange de drone, de field-recordings et d’ambient. Une musique sombre et minimaliste, où un long flux ressemblant à du vent qui s’engouffre dans un immense hall accompagne des interventions étranges composées d’objets métalliques frappés, ou laissés tomber au sol. Parfois des nappes synthétiques surgissent, tandis que d’autres objets sont frottés. On ne sait jamais trop où l’enregistrement et la composition se situent. Il y a un entremêlement constant entre les spécificités des lieux et les projections du compositeur. L’âme du musicien est intimement liée à celle des lieux fréquentés. Les longs souffles et drones qui parcours ces usines fantômes, souvent lourds, graves et pesants, ainsi que l’aspect aléatoire et irrationnel des objets entendus, tous ces éléments contribuent au sentiment d’être réellement au sein d’un univers spectral et fantomatique. Seulement, on ne sait jamais si ce sont les fantômes des usines ou ceux de Duplant qui pénètrent nos oreilles et notre esprit.
Quelques usines fantômes, trois pièces qui laissent place au doute, à l’incertitude, au hasard, à la chance, au silence – mais aussi à un étirement du temps irréel. Trois pièces où se mélangent les projections d’un compositeur, et l’aspect sombre et industriel de la fin d’une ère manufacturière. Un des films qui m’a le plus marqué ces dix dernières années, A l’ouest des rails (de Wang Bing), a été tourné il y a une dizaine d’année dans une gigantesque usine-cité. Il s’agissait déjà presque d’une usine fantôme, une usine métallurgique qui n’avait plus lieu d’être et qui était encore habité par des ouvriers-oisifs désincarnés et cassés. Quelques usines fantômes donnent un aperçu de ce à quoi cette usine doit ressembler aujourd’hui, dix ans après, avec tous ses morts et ses chômeurs, tous ses hommes et femmes rompus par un travail voué à la déliquescence.