What a long, strange trip it’s been. 2013 marks Pierre Jolivet’s 30th year of making music, which makes him one of the longest-standing artists we’ve featured. In 1984, his brand of industrial power drone made him a hit on the darker Parisian dance floors; since then, he’s relocated to Ireland and shifted his attention to sparse electronic explorations. While some may consider this a mellowing, it’s more likely a maturing. In his middle age, the artist has become less interested in the beats than in what lies behind the beats.
Pacific 231‘s brand of music is a modern rarity. It’s neither the pleasant ambient of the mainstream nor the dark ambient of the supernatural; the timbre implies deep space, where no one can hear you scream. The artist’s cited influences include Eno and Lucier, but hints of The Orb and Future Sound of London are apparent here as well. The rough edges have been shorn, but the scars are still apparent: a coldness, a harshness, a light abrasion shuttled through the grooves. Add percussion to “Koppa”, increase the volume of the loops, and one can still intuit a thin connection between the old music and the new. The artist no longer sounds young and perturbed; he sounds seasoned and wise. He also sounds curious about the nature of space and sound. These two 17-minute tracks are comprised of interacting guitar loops that one suspects might play on their own if left unguarded. They travel with slow, constant speed as if through a debris field, protected by metal and the heft of their own weight.
The physical package is crucial. Ben Link Collins has helped to design an artifact noteworthy for its tactile appeal. The splattered black-and-white vinyl is gorgeous, and the enclosed USB stick is smartly disguised within what seems at first to be a credit card. Encoded within the stick is a 35-minute video that connects the two pieces on the vinyl, allowing viewers to regard them as a single piece. Like the music, it’s a collection of repeating loops: nuts, screws and wires, dancing dots and a color scheme in constant flux. One grows hypnotized while watching, losing all sense of time. The delivery system holds enormous promise. One imagines carrying music in one’s wallet and passing it to friends like business cards. This is yet another way in which the physical format may expand its resurgence. The artist and label are to be congratulated for their forward thinking. (Richard Allen)