Soon after discovering the work of Pierre Gerard four or five years ago, I rapidly became a completist. This was occasionally something of a guilty pleasure, as instead of listening purposefully I would often take advantage of the luxurious expanse of his minimalism to cleanse the palette. An excusable habit for hyper-consumers of audio like myself, but one that listeners should avoid repeating with his newest release on Senufo Editions, Architect.
To begin, Gerard appears to be playing with the concept of manual and manufactured aesthetics. Expanding on the titles’ analogy a bit, the birth of modern architecture was largely a result of technological advances in production methodology. Instead of materials both crafted individually by human hands and bearing significant physical and aesthetic properties of their original state, construction materials began to be developed mechanically, serially and in forms increasingly divorced from cultural design or social imperative. Likewise, the ability to reproduce sound acousmatically, that is, without requiring the presence of its original source, had a similar impact on musical composition. Recording and audio reproduction technology commonly allowed a critique or, at best, a reconstitution of aesthetic norms (at worst, it repeated them for yet another century). Architect mines both of these methods of production for meaning and metre.
What makes this work initially stand out, especially to a listener with some knowledge of Gerard’s past work, is that despite the accretion of sound in a largely deconstructivist manner, much of the source material Gerard uses and digitally arranges across (particularly) the first and third pieces is in fact recognizable as acoustic instrumentation. Its most notable use is in the opening ‘Architect Ι, The Mechanics‘, where the natural attack, decay, timbre, pitch and amplitude are periodically allowed to exist and even harmonize unadulterated. By contrast, the more aleatoric second track, ‘Architect Γ, The Structure Of A Rock On A High Mountain’, reduces the audio envelope to sub-harmonic and heavily time-shifted scales where such sources are indeterminable. The question of whether or not the samples of the first are used on the second (or final) track may be answered by the work’s subtitle: ‘Three studies on what surrounds us and which remains sometimes invisible’. However, in my opinion the recitation of the iconography of traditional musical aesthetics is the more important contribution of the opening piece. With notes from the diatonic scale fresh in the listener’s mind, albeit rather few of them, he or she is left to re-evaluate their expectations of just what constitutes musicality across the rest of Architect.
‘Architect Γ…’ in particular challenges the manu-aesthetics (to borrow a term from architect Rifat Chadirji) of ‘Architect I…’. Revisiting the subtitle, the listener would expect it sufficient to examine the unheard or under-appreciated dynamics of the sonic range heard in the first piece. Gerard goes rather beyond this, however. Rigorous silence so efficiently decontextualizes what sounds do appear as to necessarily lend their sonic characteristics a sort of self-induced logic and stability. Using a palette found more frequently in his oeuvre than that on ‘Architect I…’, Gerard aptly finds appropriate timescales for these auditory fundamentals to play out – occasionally stuttering, other times droning, but always resolving as a self-sufficient monad. The recurrence of recognizable classical form in the last piece, ‘Architect Ξ, The Distance Between The Elements In A Small Forest Area’, has the quality of an apparition and is frequently directly contrasted and in turn harmonized with more synthetic counterparts, bringing the dichotomy of the first two works to a rather pleasing resolution.
All that said, I would be doing a disservice to Architect if it was implied that the album works only on a conceptual level. Given its delicacy and balance, it is easy to empathize with Gerard’s auditory ethic. The hissing recording artefacts that blink in and out of existence across the work are both implicative and dramatically tense. The spacious minimalism and simple structure allows what would be mundane notes and rhythms on other albums to feel sonorous and carefully crafted on this one. Gerard has a well-developed ear for microsonics and as a whole Architect is a delightful listen.
Strongly recommended and available directly from Senufo Editions.