Laurent Perrier: Downfall Disperse
Sound On Probation

Pylône: Black Grains
Sound On Probation

Zonk't: Purr
Sound On Probation

Laurent Perrier, who issues music under his given name as well as pseudonyms like Pylône and Zonk't, is an exceptionally prolific producer of ‘dark ambient' work, and one need look no further than this trio of new releases for proof. Heavily-textured, alien but not unmusical soundscaping is generally the name of the game, with Perrier eschewing abrasive noise for generally restrained fields of alien, mutating design.

On Black Grains, the shivering creaks, smears, wipes, and scratches of “Equation Part.1” could pass for an amplified aural recording of an insect colony, while the rippling tones and mutating static that dominate “Look Part.3” suggest decaying transmissions emanating from deep space. One might think the album's centerpiece, “Transmission,” would be too long at twenty-five minutes to maintain interest yet it does, largely because it remains in perpetual metamorphosis throughout. The piece grinds and stutters like a monstrous machine, with tearing and creaking noises emerging in layered waves that make it sound like an industrial apparatus being broken apart lever by lever. Humming tones of varying pitch in “Line 4” return us to deep space again before “Echo” ups the intensity with fourteen minutes of insectoid chirping noises and other alien chatter.

The concept underpinning Black Grains is pushed to its zenith in the two-disc, 105-minute downfall/disperse. The pieces unfold glacially and aspire to induce hypnotic states in the listener, and succeed at doing so (though, admittedly, the very fact of attending so intently to such a slow and minimal unfurl for fifty minutes almost guarantees hypnosis): downfall begins with a softly rumbling bass tone which ever so gradually swells. The material is so subtly handled that the sudden appearance of a starburst fifteen minutes in arrives with a jolt. The phrase does grow, though, eventually becoming snarl-like and marauding; clicks and pops emerge too as the collective mass turns increasingly venomous until it escalates into a seething industrial swarm, and then morphs into a combustible storm of writhing screeches and howls that grows to ear-shattering proportions. Perrier never strays from his relentless path and the piece succeeds in pulling the listener into its brutally violent and chaotic undertow. Wasting no time rising to the occasion, disc two's disperse starts churning immediately with multi-layers of throbbing loops barreling forwards and panning from side to side. Here too Perrier's handling of the material is inspired, in particular its spatial distribution; heard on headphones, distant loops suddenly move closer, sometimes so much so it feels like a vehicle threatening to run one down. The loops, especially when the rhythms are so locomotive in character, often suggest trains advancing and then receding. Like downfall, disperse rises to a gargantuan pitch at its close but the effect is more restrained and therefore less harrowing.

The exception to the ‘dark ambient' rule is the considerably more propulsive Purr (Perrier's second Zonk't release) which is propelled by oscillating bass patterns and oft-loping bass rhythms in a minimal techno style that recalls Plastikman's Consumed. Perrier's sound palette differs from Hawtin's, with the French producer gravitating towards violent screeches, squeaks, and clanks in “Interior” and treating the collective sound with a rather dub-like reverberance. The album's centerpiece, the eighteen-minute “Equation part.3,” scales back the arrangement to its most skeletal until there's nothing left but a persistent bass figure and subdued patterns of bleeps and clicks. This allows Perrier ample room to smother the base with repeated bell strikes whose echoing tones stretch out as they fade and are supplanted by successors. Gradually, the tonal mass becomes so dense, the underlying elements are rendered nearly inaudible, but the upper layers eventually dissolve as the piece nears its end, enabling the bass to be heard just as clearly as when the piece began. The loping bass remains in “Ohm 05 Part.2” though it grows progressively more aggressive and is now accompanied by a looser and funkier percussive accompaniment. The album's final quarter dispenses with bass and beat patterns almost entirely, leaving the tones to establish a rhythmic presence. Purr's incorporation of minimal techno elements renders it the more accessible and conventionally musical of Perrier's three releases.

June 2007