Nicholas Bernier - Courant.air
Sound artist Nicolas Bernier is noted for his uses of natural environments and acoustic sources for his electronic explorations. "courant.air" is a collaboration with guitarist Simon Trottier which focuses on the variations in tone, presence and emotional influences of air, in wind and sound, around the St. Lawrence River. There result is a generally quiet but sometimes jagged and stirring set in eight movements. It is at times experimental and active, at other times passive and reactive, and one of the more engaging electroacoustic pieces I've heard in a long time.
"air.chanson.usure" offers a full realization of this interplay between the minimal guitar and hovering, sometimes (but only briefly) abrasive electronics; there is also a pulse contributed to by both Bernier and Trottier, reminiscent of some of Fahey's late experiments. Many of the earlier sections of the piece, particularly "bourrasques électriques" and "déplacement des particules" are major statements by Bernier, in setting the emotional guidelines rather than in any grand gestures. Bernier throughout seems to make the statement that, like air, his music's power lies in what is not seen, in its minimal elements.
Other highlights include "menace, incertitude, le temps se (dé)couvre," in which Trottier borrows from some of Derek Bailey's atonal harmonics, but also contributes a nice folk melody mid-track that is almost jarring in how organic it is compared to the rest of the record.
"Propulsion," as befits its title, is a tense, jarring mechanical pulse, more like a grind, and inner working of some seen but not often heard tool. The closer, "érosion (jusqu'à plus oultre)" ends the eight movments not with resolution but abrupt icy repetition; here Bernier offers a dark threatening wave beyond Trottier's dark baroque fingerpicking.
"courant.air" is not ambitious, but goes deeper than that. Nicholas Bernier, with the help of Simon Trottier, create music that both recognizes its natural muse, and serves as much as receptor of the elements as offer responses to it. This is a quiet but by no means passive record; it is one filled with many reactions to currents exposed by the artist's exploration.
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