diatribes - A New Castle, two musicians stood with lush green ferns behind them

A New Castle

“A New Castle” is only Geneva-based Cyril Bondi and d’incise’s second duo album proper, though they have a recording history involving numerous other collaborators that stretches back to 2004. This new release comes courtesy of Mathieu Ruhlmann’s caduc, a Canadian label that has gathered considerable momentum over the past year. The four new compositions on the album use cymbals, bowls, various other objects, and electronics to create a quietly refined music that speaks of the duo’s experience as musicians and as collaborators.

The shimmering, ringing metals of the first and last pieces — both entitled ‘camouflage’, one ‘blanc’, one ‘bruit’ — evoke eerie, floating atmospheres of the sort associated with lunar landings and other such space-related themes. Though most percussive edges are smoothed away, the timbres still have bite, with ‘bruit’ in particular shivering with restrained energy. In ‘two cymbals’, the long decays associated with this class of instrument are truncated (perhaps by lying the cymbals flat on a surface?) into short knocking patterns that repeat through various pitches and timbres. ‘roshambo’ has much more variety, but retains the same structure of cycling through numerous discrete musical moments that accumulate without the emergence of a narrative or any sense of heading anywhere in particular.

That last sentence could be interpreted as a negative judgement, but in fact the opposite is true. The deliberate flattening of contour (melodic, harmonic, dynamic) throws attention back onto the objects making the music, within which I include individual sounds as well as instruments and instrumental techniques. This material substance, created through the conscious downplaying of dramatic effects, gains additional critical weight when heard in the context of a reality that seems wholly determined by the marshalling and targeted display of various kinds of effect.

Whether listening to the flatline, rarefied middle pieces or the more evocative ‘camouflages’, the affective space created by the music seems qualitatively different to, and sits awkwardly within, the one in which we conduct our day-to-day relational, commercial, political, and labour activities. Like a large menhir leaning in the corner of a gleaming shopping centre. True, ‘two cymbals’ could have been a little shorter without losing any of its impact. Nonetheless, the ability of the music to shift one’s mode of perception out of habitual patterns and into a different kind of engagement makes “A New Castle” a highly recommended listen.


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Photo by Nelly Haliti

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