Christopher Bissonnette: Periphery

Normally, calling a recording amelodic would be a criticism but Thinkbox associate Christopher Bissonnette's Periphery operates by an altogether different set of rules. Its immersive meditations are amelodic, by conventional standards at least, but hardly unmusical or alienating; given the degree to which the seven compositions' sounds swim within a deep, amoebic mix, generous song durations of seven to ten minutes are welcome for allowing the listener to better witness the material's gradual development.

Periphery is described as a collection of piano and orchestral based material but the description's somewhat misleading since the heavily abstracted sound character renders originating instrumentation less identifiable. Though sparse piano interjections colour “In Accordance” and extended string tones await resolution in “Substrata,” such literal moments are rare, with Bissonnette radically transforming source materials using randomizing filters and DSP. Consequently, these lulling, introspective fields of sound invite associations: the seeming thrum of helicopter blades struggles to be heard over lulling smears and prickly rattles in “Proportions in Motion,” for example, whereas muffled pings reverberate like coded transmissions within aquatic streams during “In Accordance.” Similarly, tiny ripples of static spatter like raindrops against a windowpane as deeper tones stretch across limitless horizons in “Tenor Viol” while encrusted static, like an amplified needle gouging an ancient slab of vinyl, smothers faint wisps of melody during “Travelling Light.” Careful listening reveals that what seems to be a static, droning expanse of hiss, organ tones, and blurry shudders in “Comfortable Expectations” is actually teeming with constantly evolving activity, a quality that distinguishes the album as a whole. Played loud, one better witnesses how subtly Bissonnette transmutes his material into arresting fields of sound.

December 2005