I will try and write briefly tonight a it is midnight, I haven’t been home long and I have to be up extremely early. A review though is long overdue from me, so tonight a few words about a new release on Radu Malfatti’s b-boim label, a disc titled Slow Breath by the French multi instrumentalist Bruno DuPlant. Now, Bruno seems to be appearing on a lot of releases very quickly, sometimes playing bass, sometimes percussion, or int he case of this release, ‘horn, breath and electronics’. He also seems to have covered quite a range of musical styles, having popped up on improvisation discs of varying types, both quiet and more traditionally talkative, and a number of distance filesharing projects. He also sends more demos of unreleased music than anyone else I know right now. Some of his music I have liked a lot, some less so, quite a lot of it I haven’t gotten around to hearing yet, but I have to admire the man’s energy and passion for music right now. I am also mighty impressed that he succeeded in getting Radu Malfatti to release a piece of his music, though listening to it over the last week or so, its a piece that stands up for itself no matter what label it might appear on.
Clocking in at around the forty-six minute mark, Slow Breath is a piece of music that I am guessing has been composed using sequencing software. However, whether or not it exists as a realisation of a written score or was merely put together from intuition I don’t know. The main element to the work is a repeating pulse of what sounds like electronic vibration that comes and goes initially very regularly, every six or seven seconds, but gradually as the track develops (and I mean gradually, it takes thirty-five minutes or so for any noticeable changes) the pulse seems to break into more irregular patterns, sometimes appearing only every thirty seconds or so, sometimes appearing twice in quick succession, or with a slight change in pitch. This sound, which maybe lasts about three seconds in length rises quickly and decays just as fast and sounds like an early electronic keyboard’s replication of a tuba- vaguely close in style and pitch but obviously electronically produced. It isn’t a particularly beautiful sound, but its constant appearance, in a thoroughly Malfatti-esque manner brings a feeling of tidal calm to the music. This sound is then accompanied, at a much lower volume by a couple of other recurring elements, a sort of tiny clanking noise, perhaps like a brass instrument being tapped gently, and a hushed breathy exhalation of air with definite human qualities that contrast very nicely with the electronic pulse, which is actually quite bold and forward in the mix, to the point it made my speakers shake slightly until I followed the instruction on the disc’s sleeve to “play it quietly”.
So that’s about it, these two or three simple elements are all we hear. What makes this music work for me, and work in a very beautiful way is its sheer simplicity, but within that simplicity a clear relationship between the electronic and other sounds that becomes fascinating to pay close attention to. Often the louder hum comes and goes without anything else happening. Sometimes though as the hum dissipates we hear the rattling metal, or the hissing release of air, and its the uncertainty of when this will happen and when it won’t which makes this music fascinating and keeps the attentive listener alert despite seemingly not changing very much. The track is dedicated to Malfatti, and quite frankly it sounds exactly like something he would have made himself, which in my opinion certainly isn’t a criticism. The decision to make music using such simple, refined elements, and then the choices made about where to place these elements, and perhaps even more importantly where not to place them underlines a strong sensitivity to how music like this might work. The interesting and enjoyable parts to this CD come from the subtle twisting of the regular pattern, the sight changes in waiting times between sounds, the surprise of a second sound suddenly remaining audible for longer than we are used to. Like much of Malfatti’s own work, Slow Breath plays with notions of time and repetition, hinting at them strongly, but never sticking to them rigidly, particularly when we expect that it might. It is minimal music, and its charms are very simple. It will appeal to fans of Malfatti/Wandelweiser immediately but quickly alienate those that require more muscle in their music. For me it is a thoroughly charming work that I have enjoyed spending time with. b-boim. Please excuse the dodgy iPhone photo of the sleeve. There doesn’t appear to be any images of the sleeve up online, but as I have to be up in five hours and don’t have time right now to turn on the computer that has a scanner attached, this will have to do for now. I will replace the photo tomorrow.