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Experimental Music: Mathias Delplanque, the Fields of Hay, the Missing Ensemble

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MATHIAS DELPLANQUE: Le Pavillion Temoin (The Shadow House) (CD on Low Impedance Recordings)

This release from 2007 offers 61 minutes of harmonious discord.

French multi-instrumentalist Delplanque is joined by: Anthony Poirier on drums, Jean-Francois Dausy on accordion, Delphine Daussy on cello, J.B. Boutet on additional guitar, Ismael Delplanque on voice, Rasim Biyikli on piano, with additional sounds and voices by Childe Grangier.

Blending acoustic instruments with musique concrete sensibilities can be a challenging endeavor. Coaxing guitar and piano and cello and accordion to adhere to abstract expressions while maintaining audience appreciation isn't easy, but Delplanque succeeds with delightful expertise.

Strummed guitar, clumping percussives, elongated accordion releases, teased bells, subliminal scrapings, savagely plucked strings. There are instances where it sounds as if the piano notes are falling into a black hole, cosmically scrambled into entirely unearthly noises. At other times, hands slap the ivories to produce sustained resonance that refuses to fade. One piece features a surprise approximation of electric guitar, the performance dissected into shards and reconstructed for maximum unease.

What makes this ilbient is the music's cavalier attitude to predictability. Melodies are punctuated by jarring elements. Breaks appear without warning, drastically changing the music's emotional imperative.

Vocal snippets are scattered throughout the tuneage, often manifesting a half-syllable at a time.

The manner in which these tunes flow from harmonious to discord comprises their charm. Conventional sounds are harnessed in unconventional fashion, producing a lush miasma of pulsating fluidity. Quirky structures evolve into melodious passages, only to plummet into contrariety with each other in the next instant. The music's irregular pace only enhances these diversions.

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THE FIELDS OF HAY: Songs for Nine Ladies (CD on Fourth Dimension Records)

This release from 2007 offers 43 minutes of ominous ambience.

The Fields of Hay is: Stuart Carter (from Theme, Splintered, and Heroin) who plays guitars, bass, synthesizers, samplers, digital rhythms, tone generator. He is joined by: Pete Kember and Leon Bennet (both on synth), Richo Johnson (on samples and zither), Maria Hursarska and Lukasz Szalankiewicz (both providing samples), Michael Gamble (on guitar), and TC (on vocals).

Searing guitar chords establish an incandescent blaze that illuminates a pastoral soundscape of nature samples. Ambient electronics season the sonic countryside, lending a textural backdrop for the growling guitars.

While the tuneage is rich with electronic embellishment, the guitar often dominates the music's nucleus. Searing in one song, pursuing delicate acoustic passages in another tune, strings are a vivid aspect here. Bass guitar is utilized in a few tracks, producing a haunting undercurrent that seethes with earthy notes.

Most of the electronics are textural: wafting atmospheric drones and unfurling pulsations thick with dark omens. In some instances, the electronics rise to gurgle with demonstrative vitality, swamping the music with chittering waves.

The environmental samples are a semi-constant presence, coming and going through the CD's five tracks as if reminding the audience of its planetary perspective.

Percussives are only found in one piece, where the artificial tempos prowl through the mix like rhythmic beasts, intimidating the rest of the instruments with their unearthly beats.

These compositions approach an ambient ambition with rather jarring sensibilities. And yet these harsh sounds are harnessed into ethereal harmonies that float despite their metallic density, spreading disturbing sonic comfort with each passing moment.

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THE MISSING ENSEMBLE: Zeropolis (CD on Low Impedance Recordings)

This release from 2007 offers 45 minutes of atonal noise.

The Missing Ensemble is: Daniel De Los Santos (from Tamarin), John Sellekaers (from Xingu Hill, and Dead Hollywood Stars), and Mathias Delplanque (from Lena, and Bidlo). They are joined by: Lenny Gonzales and Quentin de Hemptinne on guitar, and Ernst Karel on trumpet.

Urban decay is keynote in this music. The first track exemplifies this with a hiss that takes fourteen minutes to build to an empty drone punctuated by remote impacts, recede, then resurge. The next piece repeats this structure, using feedback tones mixed with wavering eruptions of space noise.

The third track combines the elements of the previous soundscapes, injecting a touch of adversity as the electronic drones struggle for supremacy.

The next track introduces tortured trumpet to the minimal mix, allowing the horn's spliced-and-diced wail to batter itself senseless in its attempts to flourish. The electronic tonalities win out in the end.

Ilbient glitches appear in the fifth track along with backwards guitar notes, the latter proving a worthy opponent for the overall dominance of drones.

With the final piece, things return to their sparse grind. Electronics grate softly, suppressing trumpet cameos and guitar mutilations. As expected, the drones are victorious.

Mainly for those who seek escape from cohesive harmonies.

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