Emmanuel Allard: Nouvelles Upanishads du Yoga (Baskaru)
Paris-based visual and sound artist Emmanuel Allard created the pieces on this album using only a Buchla 200e hybridg analog-digital modular synth. Upanishads are the philosophical texts that form the theoretical basis of Hinduism. I find the title curious because while the music can feel organic, breathing, heaving, it doesn’t take on particularly meditative qualities for me personally. (That might say more about me than the music, though…) But none of this should take away from how utterly fascinating the sounds herein are. Like Rashad Becker’s recent solo album, these are strange electronic organisms, each with has its own odd personality. Sometimes that personality ain’t particularly pretty, either; Opener “Antimoine” is such an instance, starting with shrill, metallic swipes of sound before emitting a strangled, prolonged synthesized scream. If he hasn’t lost you there, you’re in for a treat with its final moments of squiggly, almost jubilant sound. It’s perhaps appropriate that it’s followed by “Refuge,” a murky vacuum in which Allard’s synth zips and swoops under a muffled filter. It’s a welcome respite after the shrill and busy opener, and a palate cleanser before my favorite of the bunch, “Séance.” It begins with an almost irritating repetitive single raw synth tone, sounding off like hypnosis on overdrive, before a reverberated lead fades in and sets the tone anew with ghostly darkness. “Elan” is, I suppose, another palate cleanser, consisting almost entirely of a droning sine tone, occasionally fluttering with some kind of absurd modulation; it’s perhaps my least favorite of the bunch. Rivaling the opener in shrillness is “Adelphi Wave (Pythian Walks),” a sprawling, buzzing, blustering squiggly line of synthesis; what it requires in patience it makes up for in unusual intrigue. Both “L’Art Noir” and “Gold Rand” provide an inert comedown from the noise that precedes them, with the former being a real highlight in its spooky wail. This music is definitely on the outer limits of experimental electronics, and because of that, it’s not going to appeal to everyone. I know that I may not likely sit down to casually listen to this album much, but I respect its audacity, uniqueness, and conviction.