steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

review
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info opinion

Nicolas Bernier & Jacques Poulin-Denis

"Sur Fond Blanc" CD

Ekumen

Genre: electroacoustic, experimental

Montreal, QC

December 2009

Pegged behind their laptops, these two Montrealers construct dense opuses which deftly explore the intersection between acoustic sound and digital processing. Both Bernier and Poulin-Denis have degrees in electroacoustic composition, and their experience is evident on this polished recording. Sur Fond Blanc was originally composed to accompany a dance piece, as Poulin-Denis has an extensive background in dance performance. Hence, despite the abstract, experimental nature of this release, there is a continuous sense of cohesion amid the freeformery, almost as if there was some sort of narrative being played out -- the exact nature of which is, of course, to be sculpted at the listener's discretion.

The tracks themselves are primarily airy and ambient, as evidenced on the solemn drone on "Pri," the Oval-inspired soft glitch of "Mur," and the brilliantly organic, foreboding atmospherics found on "Eur." One imagines these moments of ominous calm accompanying the slow, fluid motions of dancers. It's an intriguing set-up, as the mechanical, layered laminae of electronic sound present a stark contrast to the human element inherent in dance. This duality is mirrored by the inclusion of recorded acoustic sounds amid the computer-generated atmospheres. Meanwhile, all the ambiance is accompanied by regular use of spoken and whispered human vocals, adding poetry to the fold -- the portentous self-account of "Olo" being a standout example. In a somewhat jarring move, the album's early-established calm is occasionally shunted by busier moments. "Len," for example, is shockingly chaotic -- it whirls around in a thick vapour of distorted speech, devilish electric humming, and a firm padding of feedback noise. Meanwhile, the O Vertigo dance troupe contributes the sounds of their feet clop-hopping against the ground on "Air," which almost becomes an Autechre track in its muddled rhythmic complexity. Together, Bernier and Poulin-Denis have crafted an interesting journey of a release Sur Fond Blanc is an infectious moodpiece that benefits from being well-planned and intelligently produced.

nicolas bernier's myspace / jacques poulin-denis' myspace

From the dance show:

Michael Tau

[Vitals: 11 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2009]