French producer Franz Kirmann has turned to year zero, back to his electronic grounding, with his sophomore, Meridians. It comes out on Denovali Records this summer, and it sizzles with emotional electricity, the horned forks of lightning masked as electronic rhythms. His music is enchanting, reconciling with the events of life despite its turbulent content. Through the music, he destroys the demons of the past and instead shines a light on the hope for tomorrow. Pure gemstones lie under a brilliant glow of uninterrupted sunshine, a prismatic heat-wave in late July. The outlook is hopeful, like a spell of dry, dormant weather. Optimism can drain away, fading beside the sunset. Sunny thoughts, hopes and dreams have their own sunset, too.
Shining with colourful synths, dreamy textures and airy percussive sections, Meridians radiates energy and bright eyed enthusiasm. Some songs ooze with confidence as they build steadily towards a crushing crescendo. The release pays off big time, with relief flowing naturally out of the music in a stream of colour. It starts off lightly, with a repetitive piano line and a sampled, sugary vocal so sweet you can taste the rainbow. And aside from the subtle product placement (I’ll leave that to the Transformers franchise and the not-so-subtle Michael Bay), it’s a sunny listen that temporarily yields to darker, sullen clouds. It is music full of bright sunshine, the kind, sleepy light that trickles in through the window. Meridians is morning music, but it is also mourning music. It fluctuates between optimism and the period when romance doesn’t just lose its lustre, but flips you off and gives you the finger. On Meridians, you’re guaranteed bewitching beats and attractive ambient textures.
Kirmann has chosen music with a strong emotional content for his foundation, such as a sampled pop vocal, a strong harmony or an orchestral climax. This intentionally gives the music a lot of energy, a lot of swagger. It’s euphoric, transcendent, upbeat. The drum machines and the synths have a distinct 80’s flavour, but much like Belong’s Common Era they somehow warp into the present. Electronic melodies help to create a surreal zone where the music never dates. ‘He Watched As She Disappeared In The Crowd’ is a heart-tug of hopelessness, that sinking feeling when you realize you can’t stop the inevitable. The gap widens between the two, and she draws closer, closer, to a new love.
Things change. People change.
At the other end of the spectrum, ‘Where Did We Go Wrong’ broods and bristles in its subdued state. Popping with bubbles of static, it wants to be left alone. A lighter, healthier melody tries to emerge, but it is quickly dampened. Nevertheless, it is a haunting piece of music that isn’t without its strange beauty. ‘Only When Your Eyes Are Closed’ hovers a little higher, flirting with ambient music. Gentle percussive timbres steer the music forward, swirling beside warm synths. Light in colour, the deeper textures glide like birds catching the currents. The record eventually disappears, as does the romance. The music leaves a lasting impression, one last trace, like a smile you’ll never see again. It’s the sunset of a relationship.
Her hair is colored in gold; you’re so pretty when you fall in love with someone else.
Silence Is A Rhythm Too comes from an 80’s new wave song by The Slits called ‘In The Beginning There Was Rhythm’, but during its incubation Collings found himself going over painter Mark Rothko’s words – that the only things worth making art about are romance, tragedy and death.
In this world, noise represents life and silence is the dagger of death. That famous musician Lisa Simpson once spoke the truth when she said, ‘You have to listen to the notes he’s not playing’. Silence isn’t just about pausing or choosing to pass; it’s an instrumental (no pun intended) technique when it comes to rock riffs and is just as important, just as effective, as the notes we hear – John Cage gave silence an in-road with his never ending piece ‘4.33’, which takes in the sounds of the environment and instructs the musician or musicians not to play their instruments for the entire duration. There isn’t anything like that here, but Scotland-based composer Matthew Collings has the violent battle between noise and silence in mind.
‘Everything You Love Will End Upon The Breeze’ has a heavier, distorted approach that ends abruptly. Tonally, the track is a heavy anchor that pulls on its thick texture, helping it to stretch and droop out of proportion. Silence Is A Rhythm Too has a dark, cinematic quality and as such the music has matured, ageing sufficiently. Matthew Collings has opened up a brave new world where silence and noise continually collide. Sparks fly as he grinds his rough textures one against the other. Melodies emerge, but they are rusty, slightly cagey. The dissonant static is unpredictable, so they have every right to be afraid. You will find subdued parts to the drama, but they are just interludes that set up the final assault.
His music passes between the narrow, silent caverns and the wide, chaotic chasms that threaten to tear music apart. As such, his music lives on the edge; you expect something, but you’re not too sure what it might be. The downward spiral of the strings – wilting in a state of extreme vertigo – mirror the music’s death, the last notes played out solemnly, without any kind of rhythm. Her last rites play out tamely, and then the silence consumes the music. A shuddering bass intertwines with a frail melody, the two tones counteracting one another. The strings have a frail feel to them, thin and vulnerable, and the carnivorous electronics are chaotic, sometimes bordering on glitch as they pass by. They never stay around for long, choosing instead to enter and exit at random intervals.
The breeze strangles the music, her dying breath brings about the rhythm of silence.
Splintered Instruments concludes the July Denovali trilogy. Originally released on Fluid Audio, the record has a destructive centre that bleeds into its warm heart. It is, at times, a frantic listen, but a thoughtful structure slithers around, too. It’s violent music for a violent world.
“Emotionally this record comes out of reckoning with the destructive forces in my life. I’ve felt my whole life as if there is an immense, violent force ready to come out of me. I wanted to finally reach it and reckon with it. Here it rears its head, filtered through melody. I was completely sick of ambient. I wanted something direct, to look you straight in the eye, to involve and shake your entire body. If I could somehow take the electric guitar and melt the sound of it and play it with my body I would.”
Splintered Instruments is a swirling tornado that never lets up. Vocals phase in and out, resembling some vague pop song from an alternate, fog-lit dimension. ‘Subway’ has a grinding rhythm at its subterranean heart, with particles of dirty, distorted dust blowing into the narrow tunnel of sound. The fierce guitar roars like a Jurassic Park Tyrannosaur. The higher pitch oozes with distortion (or blood), slowly decaying signals that bleed from open wounds.
Chords accelerate hell for leather. Harder beats punch against the melody, using it to advance itself like a boxer in training. There is a delicate side, but it is frequently wiped out by the noise and the destruction that comes with it. The quieter tone runs for its life, but the bombardment strikes without remorse, without thought. Only scraps are left.
Sunny melodies sway in the thirty degree heat, lighter moods that come with lighter tones. Bright chimes help to let the sunshine in, with plenty of heat coming from the music. The coda flirts between two dynamic extremes. Finally, the quieter, sedate tones are allowed an entry-point into the otherwise brutal conflict. The distortion, so often the tonal equivalent of fury, vengeance and violence, wins the battle, and why shouldn’t it? You’ve got to play to your strengths – and sadly we appear to be good at fucking things up, at killing. Ammunition is supplied by none other than producer Ben Frost; Splintered Instruments is a venomous bullet that never stops.