One of the most overlooked developments in music’s history has always been Musique Concréte in my opinion. It usually covers little more than a chapter in most text books, but its influence is incalculable today. The processes that were first established by the likes of the two Pierre’s and Michel Chion back in the 1950’s has been appropriated into every echelon of music, from Hip Hop to experimental electronic music. Artists like Matmos and Katie Gately are still actively appropriating processes that would be familiar to the first generation of Musique Concréte artists, but neither would align themselves wholly to this musical genre and they are not the only ones. It was quite a surprise then that I came across a release that does just that. Valerio Tricoli, whose last full-length solo release was seven years ago, is back at PAN – check out his collaborative 12” alongside Thomas Ankersmit Forma II – for Miseri Lares. An LP brooding with devastating gravitas before you even put the needle on the record. It abandons the phenomenology concepts behind the origins of Musique Concréte as it deals with concepts of the psyche through the themes of the “ psychological, emotional and irrational horror within”, according to the press release.
The subject matter is unavoidable in the opening track, La Distanza. Abstracted texts unsettle the listener’s own psychological stability as inaudible whispers make up various layers of textures alongside processed samples, constantly building tension just before it falls away into a bowed legato string. A calm is introduced before ‘the voices’ come back and pivot a fulcrum between the serenity and chaos of your own mental state again. It’s this balance between tension and release that intrigued me throughout this listening experience and is unique to this LP. The continuous contrast is duely in part to the dynamic range and it’s insistent irregularity. In the Eye of the Cyclone particularly indulges in the variance between silence and ‘noise’ in a way that would make John Cage very excited. Unlike many drone and noise productions whose unnerving persistence on sonic profusion could question their validity within musical theory, Valerio Tricoli offers an excellent retort to accusations of musical legitimacy in Miseri Lares through the ingenious use of contrasts in dynamic range and its various developing parts.
As a result Miseri Lares keeps you on the edge of your seat. Track lengths fall between 3 and 16 minutes but at no point does anything resolve itself and become tedious or protracted – something that can often happen when indulging in a sound palette of this sort. Valerio draws you in through familiar and unfamiliar textures and it will be impossible not to listen intently. Usually when doing a review of this sort I will be able to write a few sentences while I listen, but on Miseri Lares, I find it impossible to turn my attention away for little more than the start of a sentence. Even a track like Le Qoheleth, whose textures are far more upfront and overwhelming, does little to dissuade. Elements like the speaking voice and ‘winding turbine’ keep the listener moving forward as if on a journey to some unattainable nowhere.
And here is where it breaks with the traditions of Musique Concréte. The ideas of reduced listening – the philosophy which Musique conréte was found upon – are not sustainable in Miseri Lares. This album reads like a story full of provocative signifiers. Das Schrage Haus (the sloping house) for instance is fraught with parallels of association one can draw between the textures, the theme and title. The ‘creaking’ part and the text, written by Valerio, all converge to create an allegory of unsettling beauty. It takes Musique Concréte confidently out of some stale traditions and well into our post-modern age. The listener is still immersed in a palette of skewed samples that are completely based in a Concréte aesthetic, but their intention is far more acute than their own autonomy. Digital processes and tape-manipulated samples mix with classical- and newly written texts to evoke both a visceral and cerebral listening experience. This duality became really prominent as I slipped on a set of headphones and immersed myself in the sonic miasma of the LP.
Only then did I start to delve into the psychological theme of Miseri Lares. The title track proved to be the catalyst as the anticipatory breathing of an unknown character again strengthens that theme of the internal horror of the psyche. It is inevitable that you will get caught up in the moment as the dynamics once again undulates around you, bringing various parts to your attention, only to abandon you in something unfamiliar as soon as you get accustomed to it. Miseri Lares is no easy listening experience. It is not a record you will be able to put on in the background, as you venture about your daily tasks. It is a soundtrack to some unwritten fictional biography that has yet to play-out, and anything short of your undivided attention will leave you disappointed and underwhelmed. There are no melodic hooks or memorable beats to recall in a moment of joyful recollection. Miseri Lares is intense and provoking in all the right ways, taking its listener on a journey of unappeasable destinations. Its themes take Musique Concréte into the age of the now while upholding its musical- rather than its philosophical theories. I would wait seven more years for this to come along again, and it proves to me once again PAN and its artists are a force to be reckoned with.