3 out of 5
Label: Murailles Music
Produced by: Manuel Duval and Pierre-Henri Thiébaut (recording by)
“Sans chemin,” for the un-Frenchy of us, plugging this into a translator, comes out to “without a path” in English. The writeup for this album from label Murailles Music refers to a ritornello, which wikipedia describes as a “recurring passage” in music. In the same writeup, L’ocelle Mare – Thomas Bonvalet, wielder of all the instruments / electronics making up this recording – explains that he “…doesn’t write music, it’s an assemblage of gestural memories.”
Are you getting a sketch here? Each track on Sans Chemin is named after its comprising parts: of guitars, banjo, percussion, metronomes, switches, synthesizers, and etc. and etc. And each track on Sans Chemin – this usually being the case with L’ocelle Mare – is fascinating, especially when listened to with the mentioned instruments in mind, and puzzling over how music / ambience is extracted in the way it is, or what makes this particular arrangement of clicks and buzzes seem like more than noise. But what’s also the case with these “gestural memories” is that they stop and start across an album. Occasionally, a run of tracks will build to something, and it’s magnificent, such as the way the opening of the album pings back and forth between effects and sudden flourishes of un-musical applications of guitar and percussion that somehow becomes gorgeous. We get pairings like this here and there across 15 tracks, but then we also get an equal amount of self-defeating match-ups, when it’s clear that any favorable sequencing is accidental; sometimes it’s just several experiments in a row, not adding up to anything; sometimes it’s several legitimate songs in a row (though this appreciably closes out the album, ending memorably).
With acceptance of Sans Chemin being accurately named, each “assemblage” is, indeed, quite entrancing, with select moments where that’s allowed to add up over more than a track at a time.