Marc Leclair: Musique pour 3 femmes enceintes

One can easily imagine the brouhaha that would have erupted had Musique pour 3 femmes enceintes (Music for 3 pregnant women) been issued under Marc Leclair's Akufen pseudonym since listeners desperate for more of My Way's chopped radio snippets and crisp microhouse beats will hear very little of that on this latest release. In short, Musique pour 3 femmes enceintes is most assuredly not an Akufen album; what it most assuredly is, however, is marvelous, a richly textured travelogue of rich ambient soundscaping. Leclair brings a different though no less accomplished and sophisticated sensibility to this music as he does to his dance-oriented Akufen and Horror Inc. tracks. What results is work that's equal in caliber to Leclair's other recordings, though obviously more of a listening than a dance album.

Inspired by the pregnancy of his wife and two friends, the project, a deeply personal one for Leclair, is an ode to the experience of impending motherhood. Divided into nine sections (identified by day numbers, like “180e jour” for section seven), the 72-minute work parallels the stages of pregnancy through a continuous stream of ambient and more propulsive episodes. The term ambient is used reticently here, though, because Musique is anything but aural wallpaper. Consider the marvelous first section, apparently a 'Marc Leclair vs. Rechenzentrum' production. It starts with a wavering drone that's gradually overlaid by prickly stabs, weaves of whirrs, clicks, throbs, and surging washes panning from left to right, with the drone then mutating into a slowly modulating theme; at its midpoint, the piece becomes more animated, with a rich multi-layered mass of tactile digitalia chugging along. Section two is primarily ambient too, though bristly clicks and prickly clatter appear and carry on into the third piece. Field sounds of insects, warblers, and loons suggest that the fourth section has deeply burrowed into the Canadian wilderness, though the piece is marred by the overused cliché of water sounds.

Whether by accident or design, the album references the fertile templates of distinctive precursors—Steve Reich and Chain Reaction specifically—that Leclair merges with signature elements of his own style. The surging, swirling mass of silken guitars in part six can't help but recall Reich's Electric Counterpoint though Leclair bolsters the arrangement's punch with subtly swaying rhythms. In section eight, he pairs Chain Reaction's trademark steely burble and dubby smears with glistening guitar plucks and scratchy, skipping beats, while the Chain Reaction presence re-emerges amongst the buoyant outro's tribal patter and loping microhouse groove. Akufen devotees will be heartened by the appearance of galloping skips and clipped voice fragments in section five and the microhouse ripples and spindly electro filigrees of section seven.

As mentioned, Leclair designed the album's development to mirror the trajectory of the pregnancy process; hence the opening sections float in a more aqueous manner while later sections escalate in intensity. But, to his credit, he also deviates from this obvious linear trajectory by having the album weave unpredictably and dynamically through multiple moods, even if climaxes of sorts can be heard in parts six and eight. Ultimately, though, familiarity with the album's concept is hardly necessary as the music impresses splendidly regardless of any programmatic associations.

April 2005