Robert Curgenven + Richard Chartier: Built Through (Line)
Much like Richard Chartier’s Recurrence, the first couple of attempts I made to listen to Built Through, I was thwarted by just how minimal it is. The combination of my power amp’s fan and the purr of my CPU and backup drive made the first three minutes or so of Built Through seem like dead air. It’s actually a reworking of Chartier’s own incredibly minimal “Of Surfaces (Variance)” from ten years ago, processed through a series of pipe organ improvisations. It sounds less like organ and more like a tense, taut layer of drones. “Displacement” progresses as a slow crescendo of surface noise, a macro zoom on a turntable stylus playing on a dubplate — all texture, starting faint and becoming more and more emphasized. The low-end that appears about halfway through is tremendous — on headphones, it’s an intense experience. it causes some crazy sensations in my skull as it undulates so deeply while the surface noise increases in intensity to complement it. The longest piece of the four, “Built Through Both Sides,” is built around recordings of Chartier’s live performance along with additional field recordings and manipulations. Curgenven’s signature sound of cyclical surface noise is also a key player in the arrangement, with a keen sense of balance between the two artists’ respective contributions. The front end is grounded perhaps most deliberately by the cyclical pattern of what I presume is one of Curgenven’s turntable plates, a looping circular rhythm that becomes meditative over time. Through deliberate pacing, the tone shifts from this rhythmic pulse to a much more tense series of tones. A few unexpected field recordings rush in here and there, but otherwise it’s this unreleased tension of Chartier’s drones combined with Curgenven’s techniques at the heart of the piece and the album. The final piece is Chartier’s own “Series 6” (from the 2000 release Series, which Chartier also used as inspiration and source material for Recurrence), reused and manipulated through Curgenven’s own rig of nine turntables. It’s far less severe than the original, sharing the deep bass hum of the rest of this release along with the reliable added layer of surface noise and texture. It’s difficult to fully articulate what makes the release so satisfying, but it ranks high for me even based on Line’s usual excellent quality control. The contrast of minimalism to thoughtful detail in each of its segments, particularly on headphones with the volume raised, makes Built Through an impressive body of work from two already reputable artists. Highly recommended!