Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Percupulsions / Gymnorythmies 1

Here's a little compendium disc which is definitely worthy of your attention. 'Percupulsions' by Patrice Sciortino was released on the French 'Neuilly' library label in 1970 and was originally intended to be used primarily as functional mood music for film,radio and television. As a historical document,it's a fascinating example of avant garde music colliding with popular culture in a most unexpected manner. Musically it's astoundingly singular in both its compositional breadth and lyrical diversity. Psycho baroque harpsichord patterns jar harshly in rhythmic counterpoint creating a strange kind of derailed avant primitive minimalism. Oddly tuned gamelan tones float over perpetually changing clock-like rhythms creating an uncanny metronomic pulse. Interleaved with dissolving free improv skitter, the track "Spelelien" summons ghostly vibraphone, supernatural rattle and gloomy unease while the short, quick paced dark repetitions of "Multitudinaire" and "Para-Docks conjure bleak mechanistic paranoia. It's amazing to hear percussionists tease such complex and otherworldly sonics out of a such a limited palette of instrumentation. The overall effect is akin to listening to Tony Oxley, Moondog and Steve Reich gleefully jam a deranged, non machine-generated form of proto-techno. Despite the rhythmic complexity, it's all woodblock, handclaps and tom-toms on show, no electronic instrumentation in sight. Weird gear indeed. 'Gymnorythmies 1' is a very different proposition altogether. Created as an accompaniment to early school dance and gymnastic lessons [very much in a similiar vein as the BBC's innovative 'Music, Mime and Movement' and 'Listen, Move and Dance' series] this is very much music for dance and expression. "Excercices Avec Cerceaux No. 2" elevates a simple hula hoop exercise into a giddy, unearthly enchantment and is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. Have a listen to the track uploaded by the ever wonderful Toys & Techniques here.  The track, "No.12 Relaxation",evokes a dreamlike world where sound clusters of ethereal glissando shimmer celestially only to be punctuated at random intervals by a baleful voice. Odd, disquieting stuff indeed.  Throughout this disc, the playing is beautifully restrained, precise and hypnotic creating a strange hybrid of childlike melodics and avant garde modular percussion. Hats off to the Omni Recording Company for making this visionary music available once more.


dispo said...

Nice description! Good to see this is getting reissued. Makes me want to listen to Percupulsions again (I had the luck to get it on LP with some other library records).
There's also a Volume 2 by Sciortino with a similar Concrete Art cover, called Climats Plastiques. It's interesting how Contenporary Avantguarde music and library meet here. It's even called Collection Horizon, Présence de la Musique Contemporaine, but on the Neuilly label (mine also has a Créa Sound sticker over the Neilly logo).

dispo said...

Oh my, "contemporary avantgarde" is what I was meaning to write.