Marsen Jules: Sinfonietta

If it truly is the case that, as per the info provided for the release by Dronarivm, Aristotle used the term ‘symphony' to refer to “music of the spheres that embraces the concept of an ethereal harmony,” then Sinfonietta, a single-track symphonic setting by German electronic composer Marsen Jules, is a fitting title for the recording. Assembled from orchestral sound fragments, the piece induces a sense of time-suspension in the listener as it progresses, especially when said fragments cyclically overlap without interruption for the full forty-six-minute duration. As glassy strings shimmer amongst nebulous clouds of keening, high-pitched harmonics, a mood of foreboding sets in that leaves the listener in a constant state of unease.

Having issued a number of full-length albums on City Centre Offices, 12K, Kompakt, Miasmah, Dronarivm, and his own Oktaf Records, Jules is obviously an old hand at this sort of thing by now, and there are no production cracks visible on Sinfonietta's smooth surface. But while the material does achieve the goal Jules set for the project, it might have been more satisfying on listening grounds if, say, three sixteen-minute pieces of somewhat contrasting character or even two twenty-three-minute settings had been presented instead of one. Yes, I'm aware that doing so would perhaps lessen the hypnotic potential of Sinfonietta and undermine its identity as a quasi-static musical sculpture, but the obvious upside is that more musical variety and stimulation would have been made available to the listener.

That caveat aside, one can't help but admire the skill with which Jules sustains the dramatic mood throughout as well as shapes the material in such a way that the dream-like effect of its overlapping layers is maximized. And in keeping with Aristotle's definition, Sinfonietta certainly isn't lacking in the ethereal department, even if it's also permeated by an omnipresent undercurrent of dread.

January 2015