Franz Kirmann: Meridians
Denovali Records

If there's a cinematic suggestiveness to Franz Kirmann's second solo album Meridians, the French producer and Piano Interrupted member comes by it honestly, given that he used to be a film editor. So perhaps it can't be helped that Kirmann complements his obvious music-making abilities with a strong visual mindset. Arguably a more cohesive collection than his 2011 release Random Access Memories, Meridians conveys the impression of a voyage, or perhaps, in keeping with its track titles, a romantic journey; even without listening to the album, one easily can imagine the kind of melancholy soundtrack that might accompany titles such as “He Watches as She Disappeared into the Crowd,” “Where Did We Go Wrong?” and “With Such Sweet Despair.”

For the sixty-three-minute project, Kirmann collected audio fragments and samples distinguished by their powerful emotional qualities and then radically transformed them in the hope of creating something unique. He then assembled the album's dozen settings by augmenting those originating elements with synthesizers and drum machines and gradually building them into evocative soundtrack-like reveries. With its pianos and warbling synths smothered in crackle and dust, Meridians repeatedly shows that Kirmann is as interested in texture and sound design as he is melody and composition.

Production details aside, the core of the album is emotion, specifically the range of emotions expressed by the individual pieces. Even when a given track is densely woven with sound details, a strong feeling of one kind or another eventually communicates most strongly. A palpable sense of longing, for example, emerges in the string-drenched dramatics of “He Watches as She Disappeared into the Crowd” as opposed to the soul-searching that's alluded to during the crackle-smeared meditation “Where Did We Go Wrong?” Hinting at liberation, graceful piano patterns give “That Day We Threw the Keys Out the Window” a rhythmic insistence that's reinforced by the lightly swinging drum groove and synthesizer arpeggios.

The impression of a journey and the physical movement that's fundamental to it is captured dramatically by “They Drove All Night Only to Find Themselves Back Where They Started,” especially when its slow-motion pulse and ten-minute running time convey the idea of an epic drive encompassing hundreds of kilometres. In such a case, the music—especially when Kirmann bolsters its impact with synthesizers and booming drums—recalls the neon-lit soundtrack of Nicolas Winding Refn's 2011 film Drive as well as its doom-laden sensibility. It's similarly easy to imagine “Glider” and its simple drum machine beats, Cocteau Twins-like guitar shadings, and luscious synth washes accompanying one of the film's affecting sequences involving Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. If Meridians has a weakness, it has to do with length, something that grows especially noticeable when the album's last quarter is dominated by slow-moving tracks. A nine-track, fifty-minute version of the album would have offered a more concise presentation with minor if any compromise to the project.

October 2014