Braille: Partir

Though a lengthy shopping list of influences (genres and figures both, including the musique concrete of Schaeffer and Parmegiani, the jazz stylings of Coltrane, Mingus, and Monk, contemporary composers Feldman, Cages, and Ives, and labels like Sonig and Mego) is cited in reference to Braille's Partir ('to leave'), the predominating influence is clearly Markus Popp's Oval (plus Microstoria, Popp's related group project with Mouse On Mars' Jan St. Werner). With its dense, squalling chords and tones (generated from organ and guitar, judging by the sound of it, and then processed), the album's auspicious opener “Postal” offers a representative indication of the abstract, arrhythmic settings Toulouse-based David Junyent creates under the Braille guise; subsequent pieces (“Player 1,” “Denso,” “Nudo”) feature similar constructions of churning industrial masses of ripples, snufflings, whirrs, and pops. The Oval connection re-emerges in a slightly different form in “Presente” when the combination of whistling, chirping electronics with Alice Imbert's soft vocals recalls So, Popp's collaborative venture with Japanese singer Eriko Toyeda. “Recontre” and “Wonderland ?” revisit the style with the latter a quiet coda that finds Imbert murmuring over plucked fluttering tones.

To his credit, though, Junyent distances the Braille sound from the Oval template during the album's second half. In “Trapecio,” loose-limbed jazz drumming by Tellemake brings a markedly different slant to the project, while Imbert's vocalizing veers closer to the style one might hear in a jazz improv session. Most startlingly, “Recover” features the multi-tracked horn playing (both lush and squealing) of Shubaka's saxophone alongside jazz-flavoured drumming in an outing one might christen gamelan space jazz. Episodes of more organic character like these make claims of post-rock and jazz influences less far-fetched. Even so, the album's milieu is resolutely digital despite the humanizing effect of Imbert's presence. When melodic flickers and recognizable instrumentation rise to the music's surface, they're confronted with teeming masses of morphing static in Braille's prickly abstractions. Ultimately, Partir registers as an entirely credible exercise in boldly experimental soundscaping though one less impressive for its degree of derivativeness.

June 2005