Founded in 1998 by Jon Mueller and Chris Rosenau, Crouton
Records has carved a niche for itself releasing experimental
music, assembled in gorgeous, unique hand crafted packaging
and generally pressed in very limited editions. This
release is no different. Housed inside a small matte
red box and wrapped in a fine mulberry paper, this 3
x 3” CD box set is limited to 300. Lionel Marchetti
is a big player in the world of music concrète.
He has composed as part of the Groupe de Recherches
Musicales in Paris since 1993, one of his favourite
subjects being improvisation using microphones and loudspeakers.
Marchetti is hugely influenced by the father of music
concrète Pierre Schaffer – hence the numerous
references to Schaffer in the liner notes. The liner
notes are indeed an interesting feature of this release.
Each disc comes with an accompanying card listing the
track titles, the musicians responsible for each piece,
and the names of musicians or artists from whom Marchetti
has borrowed samples or ideas. Included in the collection
are Schaeffer, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Chopin, Fritz Lang
and more surprisingly, This Heat, The Residents, and
Pan Sonic. From this
rich stew of influences comes a tightly packed composition
which reveals itself slowly over numerous listens.
Ringing telephones and half-heard voices rising to shrieks
introduce the action on CD1 (Livre Maudit).
This intense one-minute long prelude masked by the crackle
of distressed tape is a fleeting episode, seemingly
without reason or resolution. James Joyce developed
the notion of the “epiphany”, those “little
errors and gestures - mere straws in the wind”,
which could reveal an essential truth in one mere stolen
moment. Much of this emphasis on found moments, and
sounds runs through music concrète – it
is no surprise then that this device is used throughout
the various episodes of Red Dust.
Livre Maudit is littered with found sounds, like
the train sounds of Serie Militaire and the
fairground noises of La Visit Des Morts. Most
poignantly, Pont De Cire features snatches
of recordings of Marie Dubas a cabaret singer who learned
her trade in the clubs of 1920s Montmartre. Hers is
a story full of melancholy – a melancholy which
haunts all three CDs. Persecuted as a Jew during the
war by the Vichy government, Dubas was placed under
house arrest, and eventually fled to Switzerland. After
the war she discovered that her sister had been executed
and her nephew had died in a concentration camp. Her
singing mixed with Higashi’s menacing laughter
and an irresolute mixture of concrète sounds
makes for an extreme and surreal contrast.
The majority of CD 2 (Livre Magnétique)
is taken over by Visiones Nocturnae which features
a phone conversation between a robotic interviewer asking
a similarly dehumanised Marchetti why he composes music
concrète. This Brechtian interruption is playful
of course. “Do you like my music?” Marchetti
questions the questioner. “Are you sure?…Are
you really sure?” This type of question is very
rarely posed in relation to music concrète –
subjective enjoyment is rarely a major concern. To “appreciate”
is one thing. To “like” is quite another.
On the final CD, (Livre d’EOS), Marchetti
finally opens up with two more sustained bursts of activity.
In Penombra, Marchetti creates a gloriously
sparse soundscape, which eventually gives way to strangely
melodic guitar playing and mellifluous singing. The
sense created is one of dream-like longing. If this
is something of a surprise, the collection’s closing
track L’incendie is almost spiritual.
Beautiful vocals accompanying a tolling bell are suggestive
at times of the work of John Taverner, creating a sense
of calm with which to end the action.