3 out of 5
Label: Un Je-ne-sai-quois
Produced by: Brice Kartmann, assisted by Julien Sénélas and Jérôme Vassereau
This is cool when you know the concept, and it’s a pleasant listen even when you don’t, but I feel like there’s a “live” or visual component necessary to fully appreciating Terry Reilly’s “In C” – here performed by Julien Sénélas, Jérôme Vassereau and Soia using modular synthesizers – despite there being a double handful of groups eager to put their own version to tape / digital over the years.
The concept: Reilly composed 53 segments – little short blips of music – and you choose-your-own-adventure the number of musicians you want attacking these blips, which are to be played in sequence by each… but at their own cadence and pace. Meaning Musician A can play segment 1 for ten minutes before going on to segment 2; Musician B starts playing segment 1 five minutes into that but progresses through 3 – 6 before those ten minutes are up; Musician C waits to start on 1 until 15 minutes in; and etc. It’s experimental music, y’all, delighting in the aural coincidences that occur by the tricksy design moreso than aiming for something that’s intended to be directly entertaining.
And so this synthy In C follows suit: it’s sparse stuff, but sprinkled with moments of joy when sounds line up intriguingly, or surprisingly congeal for a climax or two. Reilly was encouraged to anchor the performance by the repetition of a C note, played like a metronome, and our trio handles that with a ticking, clipped beat. It helps, for sure: it maintains a sense of movement throughout the entire piece, which is around 40 minutes, and while I’m not going to say that I was enraptured the whole time, the work is interesting enough to be worth several playthroughs; in that sense, it’s nice that it can easily sit in the background while you’re doing something else, but also can be listened to more intently. For what it’s worth, this version of In C starts from segment 11; not sure if that’s a normal change, or is sacrilege, or what the reason for that may’ve been.
The digital version is one single track; the vinyl is split across its sides, but it doesn’t feel disruptive – the piece is halved at a point that makes sense, and begins anew on the B-side as though it were intended to be divided that way. Sénélas, Vassereau and Soia also had a visual piece to this – 53 pieces of art to represent the segments, and those are included in a nice booklet with the physical form. After a few listens, I did find them to be appreciative representations of the looping, alluring sounds.