Various Musique Fragile Vol. 2

VariousMusique Fragile Vol. 2
Launched in 2010, with a three-disc set featuring full-lengths by Khôra, Nick Kuepfer and Les Momies De Palerme, the Musique Fragile initiative was designed to showcase new artists of a slightly more experimental and hermetic orientation than Constellation's mainstays. Composed and recorded in highly idiosyncratic manners, the music featured in both sets is unique, boundary pushing, yet still accessible. Craig Dunsmuir's disc as Kanada70, Vamp Ire, presents 15 concise pieces culled from his sizeable archive, and these vignettes are some of his best pieces. Refusing to adhere to a strict aesthetic, Vamp Ire flows more like a meticulously curated compilation of quirky post-punk-era gems. Much like his work with Sandro Perri in Glissandro70 though, there's something irrevocably fresh and new, despite its open celebration of '70s and '80s aesthetics. Shades of Cluster, Arthur Russell, Eno's Another Green World, various African Musics, late period Muslimgauze, Black Dice and the Durutti Column flicker by rapidly, sometimes fusing together, sometimes dissolving. A strange, piecemeal cohesion does arise from this restless eclecticism though; his pithy, rhythmically clever nuggets are both digestible and obtuse. The pairing of Hangedup and Tony Conrad for Transit of Venus makes as much sense on paper as in practice. Conrad's pinched string drone dovetails perfectly with Geneviève Heistek's thin sawing on the violin and viola. Conrad's collaboration with Faust is a bit of touchstone here, yet this trio, with Heistek and drummer Eric Craven, covers a great deal of ground. Some tracks, especially "Principles," exude a latent funkiness evoking the Pop Group's seductive menace. Elsewhere, woven metallic lattices of string drone are draped across a soft, insistent percussion pulse, and hoarse, reedy clouds are intercepted by robust drums and distant percolations. Pacha's (aka Pierre Guy Blanchard) contribution, Affaires Étrangères, is an exuberant, percussion-heavy album pitting a full-on polyrhythmic barrage of drums against keening, Middle-Eastern-inspired synth and organ. Often employing a regular trap-kit, Blanchard also ventures into bona-fide Middle Eastern percussive implements, including doumbek, as well as various frame drums. An agile and energetic percussionist, and adept sonic colourist, his work paints a very personal and particular landscape. The quasi-Eastern elements, especially the synths, do feel a bit conspicuous, at points, leaning more towards Orientalist pastiche than the wide-eyed openness of someone like Blanchard's frequent collaborator, Sam Shalabi. The disc nonetheless remains compelling and rather fun. Much like its predecessor, Musique Fragile Vol. 2 offers up the work of some incredibly gifted and singular artists, building anticipation for the third instalment.