Bérangère Maximin – No one is an island

French electroacoustic composer Bérangère Maximin’s latest LP serves as the eleventh installment for Sub Rosa’s New Series Framework series and collects contributions from living legends Rhys Chatham, Christian Fennesz, Frédéric D. Oberland, and Richard Pinhas.  The New Series Framework is an extension of Sub Rosa’s CONCRETE ELECTRONICS NOISE, featuring a “mix-up of unusual conceptions of sound material by young unknown composers, well known not-so-young composers, and old but clever composers.”  The series has previously featured works by Daniel Menche, Erdem Helvacioglu, Israel Martinez, and others.  Maximin’s offering to the series, No one is an island, is nothing short of beautiful.  Just fucking beautiful.

This record is the first piece of recorded material from Maximin since her debut, entitled Tant Que Les Heures Passent, on John Zorn’s Tzadik label back in 2008.  On her latest outing, Maximin has constructed likely the best quintet of avant-garde composers to release material this year, an avant dream team.  All consistently recognizable contributions compliment each other  in some untrained, brilliantly innate sort of naturalism.  The record sounds undeniably thoughtful and complex, but one can’t help but prefer to think of it all coming together unconsciously, clustered by some central magnetism that caused these separate elements to join into an unlikely success.  In short, I like to think that No one is an island formed the same way that the universe did.

The record also is refreshingly organic and at times even concrete, with identifiable instrumentation and convention within the haze of other-worldly experimental abstractions.  For example, Maximin uniquely emphasizes the acoustic over the electro in electroacoustic with tracks like “Bicéphale Ballade” while elaborate textures squeak through in almost-percussive decoration.  Voice also becomes a predominant element to the “magical” track “Knitting in the Air.”

Beyond scrutinizing the microscopic details of this layered record, No one is an island is one of those discs that simply stands on its own as pure audible enjoyment, regardless of the artist’s thesis.  Maximin has made something beautiful with her collaborators, and I think that is the most important aspect to this effort.


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