Mechanical, electric and electronic: this 19th edition of Akousma offered us a closing evening with a line-up of Canadian and international artists synthesizing the richness and variety of musique concrète born 75 years ago, renamed electroacoustic over time.
Block 1: Nicolas Giannini (CA/IT), Bénédicte (CA), Elias Merino (ESP)
Nicola Giannini (Canada / Italy ).
The piece featurred here, Rebonds, was a rather academic overture, an exercise in style. Playing on the rhythmic figure of the sonic ricochet, this doctoral composer at the Université de Montréal presented 13 minutes of superimpositions and sequences of sound bodies, as well as repetitive spiral games of increasing speed. This choreography exploited the full potential of spatialization and immersion. In fact, it was the fruit of a residency at the Spoborole art center in Sherbrooke. Nicola Giannini has won numerous prizes and awards: first prize at the 2019 JTTP competition organized by the Canadian Electroacoustic Community, honorable mention at the XII° Fundación Destellos competition, finalist at the 2018 Città di Udine competition, and the Micheline-Coulombe-Saint-Marcoux prize at the first edition of the AKOUSMAtique competition in 2022. A fitting preamble
Bénédicte (Canada )
The Montrealer – an interdisciplinary artist whose real name is Maxime Gordon – veers off into electronic territory. Deep, round layers of spiraling synthesizers shape and distort the soundscape, culminating in the introduction of female vocal samples. Discerning ears were able to analyze this symbiosis of sounds defying all genre boundaries. It should be noted that she is a DJ, composer and performer. Her piece Halves Shoals seemed to be the chassé-croisé of all her strings of skills. She took us into a sensual, interior universe of great candor. Her productions have played at MUTEK (Montreal), Institut du Son Spatial (Budapest), MONOM (Berlin), Eastern Bloc x Nuit Blanche (Montreal) and Glory Affairs x Punctum (Prague). She is currently working on a new album and organizing soundwalks across Montreal.
Elias Merino (Spain)
The evening’s Block 1 concluded with Synthesis of Unlocated Affections: empathy distress (2023) lasting 30 minutes. A return to pure experimentation. The key words here were deconstruction, fractured contemplation and reverse immersion. Like a fantastic short story, this tale of abstract music transgressed the laws of nature. Between otherness and strangeness, the unease was perceptible, felt, palpable. This Spanish artist is very interested in speculative futures and fiction. A well-crafted scenario between literature and music.
Bloc 2 : Olivia Block (US), Evan Magoni / Gonima (US/CA), Aho Ssan (FR)
Olivia Block (United States)
24 minutes of diving under the waters of San Ignacio lagoon, Baja California Mexicana. A long, textured sound work based on in-situ or studio audio-synthesis recordings, inviting us into the whales’ living environment. This pristine site, protected by UNESCO, offers a glimpse of pure nature. American Olivia Block and her work Breach conveyed a subaquatic and abyssal universe. An emotionally rich piece. It was relatively easy to visualize the different sound collages made like a scenario where different chapters opened and closed. The climax of the piece was stormy, resulting in a downpour of driving rain;
Evan Magoni / Gonima (United States / Canada)
A new jolt! This time in glitchy ambient electronica. Homeostasis by Evan Magoni – under the pseudonym Gonima – raised the tension with finesse and subtlety. This sonic work unfolded like a pointillist floral painting with parsimony and multidimensional depth. This emotional and chaotic tension under control is also found in Autechre, Boards of Canada, Loscil, Aphex Twin, Marc Leclerc (Akufen). Here are 15 minutes and 40 seconds of jerky, syncopated, ethereal beauty. Gonima has succeeded in a fine genre exercise to leave room for the apotheosis.
Aho Ssan (France)
Niamké Désiré aka Aho Ssan brings the festival to a close in style. And what a beauty it was! Falling Man is a work commissioned by the Groupe de Recherches en Musiques -integrated into the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel since 1975 and based at the Maison de Radio France- and co-financed by the Creative Europe program of the European Union . Inspired by a photograph taken during the World Trade Center bombing, this three-part piece is a pure masterpiece. Like a near-synthesis of the entire history of musique concrète, contemporary, electronic, jazz and hip-hop, Falling Man deploys a richness and finesse knowing how to combine the speed of progression of the scenario of all the sound bodies the sparkle of the brass, the deep consistency of the rhythms and the final touch of voices bringing hope and optimism that can triumph over obscurantism. Sometimes it’s worth noting that it’s largely possible to analyze an artist’s intellectual breadth through his or her musical works. Here, no doubt. Aho Ssan has produced a piece that is not only sonic, but also cinematographic, intellectual and even philosophical. Indeed, his latest album Rhizomes evokes the rhizomatic thinking of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Édouard Glissant;
The Akousma festival closed with a musical questioning of current events, the world and its multiple crises, where instead of closing ourselves off, we should be thinking of our horizontality and multiplicity to better exist together.
Photo by Caroline Campeau