Vamp Ire, by Kanada 70
Affaires Étrangères, by Pacha
Transit Of Venus, by Hangedup & Tony Conrad
In November 2010, Constellation Records released the mixtape for their first Musique Fragile box set. The new imprint emphasized regional artists, relatively limited pressings, and beautiful packaging. The first release featured three albums: Silent Your Body Is Endless by Khôra, Brulez Ce Coeur by Les Momies De Palerme, and Avestruz by Nick Kuepfer. Katie English, writing for Fluid Radio, wrote that the debut was “a stunning collection.”
What reviewers struggled with the most was the name: “fragile music.” Constellation offered only this thread between the three disparate works, “Taken together, to our ears (and hearts) these albums trace overlapping circles of Hermetic music.” Solitude, hence fragility? There seemed to be more. Perhaps their roster of larger-than-life artists (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Clues, The Dead Science) stood in stark contrast to these lesser-known talents. Or the focus on limited, handcrafted materials returned the element of scarcity to music, in a time when entire catalogs could be downloaded for free at the torrent sites, or at least ripped from a sound card one YouTube clip at a time.
For those who needed further explanation, that day is here: June 26 will see the release of Constellation’s next installment.
Again, the box set packages three albums together. They are altogether different releases, but far from incompatible. Pacha’s Affaires Étrangères is bold, cultured, and potent, downright geothermal with synthesizer and rowdy with percussion. Early signs point to a psychedelic throwback; take “L’Aeroport De Charlo,” which opens Affaires with cracking snare, Woodstock synth, and a blinding keyboard lick, too fast to call a hook. But by the time we reach “Tunel,” with its Interzone-inspired drums and belly dancing synth, we already know this to be something much more complex and exigent. Transit Of Venus (Hangedup & Tony Conrad) is similarly pulsing and traveled, but the strings here are acoustic, and the passport stamps are mostly occidental. Vamp Ire (great name, by the way) marks Kanada 70′s vinyl debut. Culled from Craig Dunsmuir’s “treasure chest of 21st century études,” the collection is quirky, uncompromising, and sparse. “Molle” seems to draw inspiration from the sound of car engine trying to turn over, as that noisy, frustrating moment — or its sonic twin — is looped into an odd, groovy rhythm. “Gnaer” features moves-like-Fripp guitar and a simple, small-kit drum arrangement. “For T.O.” is digital and arrhythmic, with a burrowing synthesizer line and glitchy percussion.
Between two hours of material and over two dozen tracks, it will be tough not to play favorites. Hangedup & Tony Conrad’s “Panorama From Maxwell Montes” is a slow tango, every bit as serpentine and carnal as that description implies. Here the strings all but snap from heat, and the centrifugal improvisation serves up heavy gravity. Speaking of, the outdoor fragrance of “Gentil The Unlucky Astronomer” is bold, invigorating. Kanada 70′s “Mou” is somehow visual and verbal at once, featuring implied percussion and back-of-the-manual synth settings, which form a chromatic, nearly haphazard composition. Pacha’s “Macedonian Mind” is a kinetic, low-register power wash. Riotous.
Musique Fragile vol. 02 is available for pre-order now. Stream the mixtape here. Our assessment? You guessed it: a stunning collection. Again.