Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Musique Moléculaire - Iceberg

Album: Iceberg
Label: Self-released
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Non-lieu
     2.      Angle Mort
     3.      Funérailles
     4.      Autopsie
     5.      Arcane
     6.      Subterfuge
     7.      Exogamique

I have to admit, for all that I like (and prefer) dark, loud, and often unlistenable music, there are occasions (like today, for instance) that I just want to be soothed by the strains of calming drones and soaring chord progressions rather than have my brains pummelled repeatedly by a metaphorical 2,500 ton forging press. I make no apologies for that. And this is exactly what I get from this album from Quebécois project Musique Moléculaire: a sonically diverse set of semi-improvised texturally-nuanced and descriptive pieces, set far above the madding crowd and in the subterranean deeps by turns. This is music one can melt into, and music which can induce shivers – and it deserves a broader audience, hence the review.

‘Non-lieu’ (Dismissal) is the permission granted for you to leave your physical body behind, and to let the astral construct whizz around the four-dimensional space that is the multiverse. Grand chords and drones lift the spirit, sending it flying upwards into the thermosphere and beyond, ejecting us from the prison of gravity and breaking the shackle binding us to earth. Once beyond our home planet’s grasp, the vista opens out, simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, reducing the human scale to the ridiculous and infinitesimally small. ‘Angle Mort’ (Blind Spot) opens with drones that fan out in all directions, accompanied by a sweet refrain that genuinely sent shivers up and down my spine: now we’re in the regions where nebulae, dust clouds, and other assorted celestial oddities live, a boiling, roiling, and coiling riot of activity that can only be perceived on timescales far longer and bigger than we lowly humans can even conceive of. When one star blinks out, another star ignites into existence, and so it goes on.

‘Funérailles’ (Funeral) begins in elegiac style, composed of both hope and grief, a small light limning a dark horizon, before a thick pall of darkness descends, a stifling black essence snuffing out whatever light there is and diluting its brilliance. Death is a finality, a state of non-being from which no one can ever return, the mystery that awaits us all at the end of life. The vision presented is airless and lightless, a suffocating blanket of terrifying loneliness and distance, a chasm of separation that is unbridgeable. ‘Autopsie’ (Autopsie), follows on naturally – a reflection of the human desire to understand, to have things explained. It’s a sundering of the wholeness of the body, necessary perhaps, but for all that still a cutting of flesh to exhume a story and a reason, a forced ripping of soul from matter. It is not done for the dead person’s sake – it is entirely for those of us who still live. Death doesn’t matter to the dead.

‘Arcane’ is, perhaps, another logical follow-on – the unveiling of the ultimate mystery itself that exists beyond death, the secret puzzle that only the dead are allowed to witness. It’s a mystery that pervades all matter, from the lowliest component of matter to the vast conglomerations that coalesce as galaxies from myriad quantum complexities. ‘Subterfuge’ pulses in on metallic swellings and whines, before settling into plangent drones and reverberations, constantly twining and coiling, endlessly moving and sparking, and letting off energy in the form of a sequenced bass rhythm, which almost but not quite veers into EDM territory (I bear no shame in admitting I was nodding my head along with it at this point – no hip-shuffling though).

‘Exogamique’ (Exogamic) brings the album to a close, a series of reverberating notes fighting with both themselves and each other. It forms a curious but very mild atonality, setting the competing noises tumbling and cascading, to form strange waterfalls of noise. (Exogamy is the practice of marrying outside one’s group, tribe, or extended family relationships). The last few bars bring us almost full circle to a flavour of the beginning, the reverberations returning us to earth and the body. The circle is complete.

While this is in many ways closer to ambient than the dark variety don’t dismiss it on those grounds because there are streaks of darkness here aplenty. It’s a very literate form of music, the kind that plays with textures and moods to good effect, follows a well-plotted path with logical connections, and in the process forms narratives and stories, as well as painting vivid scenes and vignettes. It does so without superfluity or unnecessary flourishes, instead using a deft economy of less being more. This is one to which I will return, particularly because it shies away from the norms of conventional ambient and strays and wanders wherever it feels like going. I think the semi-improvisational nature helped enormously in helping to draw out the moods expatiated here, those dispositions ranging from cosmic soaring to plumbing the stygian depths. Like a good book, this has everything, and comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Available as a download from:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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