Melissa St. Pierre: Specimens
Radium / Table of the Elements

The rounded, flowing, and permeable character of Specimens' cover organisms are in direct contrast to the EPs' eight miniatures which are dominated by the jagged and hard-edged clatter of prepared piano and percussion (the piano's strings, hammers, and dampers are all peppered with objects during the EP). In this debut collection, Melissa St. Pierre's electronically-enhanced music invites the label “musique mécanique,” so suggestive is it of a mechanical orchestra with all its pistons firing. The opening “figure” sounds as if objects are being hurled against the piano strings in an attempt to derail the instrument's ponderous melody while the second anchors clockwork ostinato patterns with a deathly drum pound. The third is rambunctiously funky in a scrap-heap sort of way, while the frenzied fourth threatens to teeter completely out of control. Listeners obsessed with categorizing will have a tough time with Specimens; being so genre-defying, St. Pierre's seventeen-minute set comes close to carving out its own unique niche. Had Dadaists and Futurists assembled in a Paris apartment one evening in the 1920s and augmented the host's altered piano with junkyard noise-makers, the sonic results might have sounded very much like Specimens.

June 2008