Composer and sound artist Robert Curgenven was born and raised in Australia, but has spent the last few years living in various parts of Europe. He has released a string of well-regarded albums for labels such as LINE and Winds Measure, as well as building a formidable reputation as a live performer. After stints in Berlin and Amsterdam, Curgenven eventually moved to Cornwall, reversing the journey made several generations prior when his ancestors emigrated from there. Much of “SIRÈNE” was composed using recordings of pipe organs made in centuries-old Cornish churches — another return of sorts, as he initially began making music as a classically-trained organist. I found these sound sources difficult to identify in the music, however, and other sources of controlled feedback and environmental sound are also sometimes audible.
The diffuse, non-specific sound produced often feels more like a force such as a tide or gale than a tone or collection of tones; variation is more a matter of intensities than it is one of traditional harmony. This is an album that surges and roils, rather than progressing between points. At times, the aim seems to dominate as wide a frequency spectrum as possible and still remain coherent; at other times lulling, almost listless textures swirl. Details are submerged, indistinguishable: particles rub against one another, creating a heat and a friction that seems to propel the music without any help from more conventional rhythmic patterns or chordal structures. The ending coda, “Imperial Horizon”, is the only point at which lurching, fuzzy melodies become discernible in their specific shapes, yet the mute force of melody — its insistence — never seems far away.
“SIRÈNE” is music for tossing and turning to, that won’t let you sleep. Smothering heat; unidentifiable hoots and whistles in the night. In this sense, though Curgenven left Australia a long time ago and drew inspiration from the land his forebears left behind, this still feels like music for and of the bush.