Yannick Franck – Memorabilia

08/11/2011

Yannick Franck’s work is well documented on his personal site. He runs the Idiosyncratics label and is very active both as a solo performer and with his YERMO project. From what I can gather he seems to be branching out into new areas, more research based recording projects. Hopefully I’ll be able to review some of the outcomes in the near future.

If you like his past work, you’ll enjoy this. But from what I’ve listened to in the past, I’d say that this new album has a more refined or sophisticated quality and comes over as an exercise in restraint. In terms of technical resources, things are quite straightforward -the artist tells me that he mostly uses analogue gear, ‘processing samples of my own voice and real instruments, and of course some software based instruments as well, but used only as a part of the composition process’.

Diving headlong into definitions, the music is ambient in some of the senses that Eno mentions in his Music for Airports liner note though there is a quality in the production that draws the listener in more than perhaps Eno envisaged. There are also ‘dark tendencies’, a cinematic concern with atmosphere and mood brought about by the use of dense textural layers. There are six pieces – one or two of the titles giving away Franck’s concern with the darker side, for example Urban Disease and Self Loading Defeat.

So what are the most evident characteristics of the album as a whole? Restraint first and foremost, most evident in Vides Linja where the feeling is that of holding back from the big overpowering gesture or texture which would break the spell.

Overall we find the same tonal (pitched) layered textures as in earlier works, a preference for the low to midrange, with the occasional gesture or contrasting layer, a light crackling and high frequency tones in Invott/Elements, a digitally modified birdscape in Helsingin Subterranean. We have looped pulses of timestretched instrumental sound offset with the occasional percussive flourish, as in Urban Disease. This piece had me travelling back to early Pink Floyd, waiting for a delicious Dave Gilmour solo to burst in. Very well balanced, high production standards, all evidence of a profesiional sound designer at work. Nothing too intrusive. I’ve heard music like this composed by less adept listeners which gradually starts to irritate as certain midrange frequencies are left running.

Good use is made of the back to front perspective: normally you’d play at spotting the clever use digital reverberation software, but in Invott/Elements and Helsingin Subterranean in particular the illusion of large mysterious spaces is beautifully fabricated – I’m hearing the space and not the software, if that makes sense.

A sense of narrative emerges at times, especially strong in The Answer which introduces background voices over (mostly pitched) modulating textural layers. The collage of these different nationalities speaking in English is offset by ‘stuff’ crashing about in the background. Towards the end I could pick out what sounded like quotations from various films.

The only track that did break the spell was Self Loading Defeat with its hint of synth and drum beats. But, and this probably says more about me than the music, I had inner visions of ‘bad things’ being done to victims, perhaps inappropriately clad virgins locked up in some crypt or another. All this without the use of corny ‘scary’ clichés.

The cleverest thing that Yannick has managed to do here is to make gentle statements within an idiom that doesn’t really thrive on gentleness. In a very unique manner, the music manages to be dark without being harsh or unpleasant.

Personally (yes, I know that my personal likes or dislikes are irrelevant) I liked this album the more I listened it. Yannick Franck strikes me as someone who knows what he wants and why he wants it. He also knows how to do it.

Yannick Franck‘s Memorabilia is released on silken tofu records

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