Robert Normandeau – PUZZLES

Empreintes DIGITALes

A professor in electroacoustic composition at Montreal University, Robert Normandeau is also one of those composers whose music can sound like a divertissement but, at times, becomes deeply revealing if not disturbing. This duality is immediately evident when one compares the first two tracks on this release: “Puzzle”, a rhythmic exercise scored for door sounds and vocal onomatopoeia, is lively, almost funny, yet pretty flat as far as psychic impact goes. The following “Eden”, on the other hand, is a detailed architecture of brilliant loops and almost (Steve) Reichian pulses, where female voices and contrasting illuminations pave the way for an emphatic tonal affirmation that remains forward looking while managing to avoid the obvious. “Chorus”, dedicated to the victims of 9/11, takes some of the basic chant elements of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and entangles them in liberal electrostatic vocal jargon in which immobility and desperation intertwine, hopelessly waiting for non-existent peace. “StrinGDberg”, for multilayered hurdy-gurdy and cello, is dramatically minimalist, but its instrumental peculiarities are so incredibly deformed that I could have sworn a vocal source was present. The majestic crescendo of its mechanical subdivision is gospel for lovers of high-density powerful consonance. Closing the DVD, “Hamlet-Machine With Actors” is, according to the composer, a tentative description of the oppression that society exerts on man, the representation of taboos and the end of art. It’s a dark, thrilling piece where vocal utterances, repeated laughter, lugubrious electronics and a clutter of percussion fuse in a hellish mire, not too far removed from Art Zoyd and Cassiber at their most stirring moments.

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