Richard Chartier & Yann Novak: Undefined

Given that the Italy-based, self-described “media-network” Farmacia901 founds itself, in part, on the principle of the beauty of minimalism, no better product would seem to be more representative of its aesthetic than a collaboration involving microsound artists Richard Chartier and Yann Novak. In fact, everything about the project, from its stark cover design to its choice of non-title, screams minimalism of the most extreme kind. The production process involved in creating the recording—a single, uninterrupted, thirty-nine-minute track—was straightforward enough: Chartier created unfinished material and shipped it to Novak accompanied by the simple instruction to finish the piece by adding and/or subtracting to it, and then return it to Chartier for final approval.

As quiet, even imperceptible, as Undefined might be when played in a normal environment where ambient sounds add to the total sound mix, it's a whole other story when listened to on headphones. There the sounds present themselves loud and clear, and one is able to attend to all of the multi-layered detail that the collaborators have woven into it. Accompanied by a subtle flow of simmering hiss, softly shimmering wisps of bright electronics drift by, and the delicate tones waver audibly as they languorously stretch out. Changes happen so unobtrusively that the emergence of a choral breath-like drone around the fourteen-minute mark is something one notices more retrospectively than when it physically occurs—perhaps because of the occasional tendency of one's mind to wander while listening to the work. A slightly ominous turn happens twenty-two minutes in when a fluttering mass surreptitiously rolls in like a slow-motion fog to envelop the other sounds and render them blurry. Heard outside of headphones, the material would situate itself at the edge of perception and be little more than one element within a larger fabric of sound whose elements move in and out of the listener's awareness. Experienced via headphones, Undefined becomes the central focus of one's attention and reveals itself to be a patiently unfolding yet nevertheless engrossing listen.

July 2013