Reviewing an artist who’s been writing many of the rules in the book of concrete / acousmatic music for over half a century – and doing so without conventional studies to burden his fantasy – could result in either sterile celebration or offence, a lurking temptation to classify Voyage Initiatique as “predictable”. But Pierre Henry’s sound art still has fangs to bare: several of the compositions here are reworked from ritual songs and utterances and, thanks to Henry’s skill at placing and linking events, rapidly become keys to unlock powerful emotions. And yet just when you’re getting used to a looping fragment or being enthralled by evocative mysticism, in typical Henry style something comes along and changes the slide. The album’s spiritual highpoint is “Hypnose” where, after the impenetrable suspension of the introduction, a magnificent montage of pygmy chants with interlocking high-pitched voices and wooden flutes sings a joyous goodbye to any remaining defences and, colliding with the heart, carves wounds of pure beauty. The ensuing “Ceremonial” wraps us in the illusion of sensory immutability, while on “Dualité” and “Multiplicité” it’s as if the very walls are closing in. The grieving void of “Solarisation” ends the disc with strata of rarefied matter slowly disappearing before our very eyes; at 78, Pierre Henry knows much about the metaphysical power of sound, that unpronounceable disease we could call “evolution” – and Voyage Initiatique is another – predictable, that’s right – masterpiece in the man’s career.


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