Charity compilations are, generally speaking, a good thing, particularly when less mainstream musicians contribute. It’s hard to argue against these projects, obviously, whoever is involved – the charity gets increased awareness of their work, as well as some much-needed funds, the purchaser gets some new music to listen to and the artists appearing may find a few new fans as a consequence, as well as having the satisfaction of giving something back (because after all, experimental musicians are just take, take, take, with their private jets and opium-fuelled orgies).
There is a drawback when these compilations spiral out of control at the curating stage and turn into six-hour behemoths; it’s hard for the listener to not feel overwhelmed with such generosity and so some artists get lost as the skip button is utilised. I was suitably shame-faced when The Bricoleur‘s debut album landed on the desk and I realised I’d had his contribution to Not Alone (for Médicins Sans Frontières) for several years and yet had no recollection of what it sounded like. So the moral of the story is: it’s a good job artists are contributing for the cause and not to expand their audience because it might not necessarily be the best method to find new listeners.
The fact I’d missed The Bricoleur’s work was especially acute because First Matter is an excellent debut album, all metallic, industrial fuzzy drones set against sampled choral works in a hazy, miasmic environment. This album received the full vinyl / lathe / cassette treatment and it’s easy to hear that it will work best on an analogue system with a little bonus surface noise – given that the first two editions are sold out, it’s maybe time to pester for a third pressing. Michael Lawrence (for he is The Bricoleur) is a close associate of David Tibet, and First Matter occupies similar territory to the earlier, extended pieces of Current 93, interwoven with the plainsong choir that appeared around the time of C93’s The Inmost Light. With a bunch of EPs to his credit, though, Lawrence’s production is a lot more assured than Tibet’s earliest work, and there’s no over-layering or muddiness in the sounds used – it can be harshly intense at times and then leavened with ghostly, nebulous voices for powerful results.
First Matter is a deeply involving listen, pulling you into this world of throbbing drones and the choir invisible, and there constantly seems to be different sounds or themes to attract the attention. Although it isn’t overloaded with multiple tones, it is a very dense listening experience; similar to the polyphonic singing of Corsica, where four voices combine to create the illusion of a fifth, or even sixth, voice. The mix of sounds that The Bricoleur uses give the effect of conjuring up extra textures or tones that – possibly – aren’t actually there.
The most effective pieces on First Matter hit the perfect balance of darkness and light, noise and melody, texture and vocal, profane and sacred, notably the beautiful “There Is No Rescue” and “The Labyrinth of Significant Complexities” which features David Tibet’s manipulated vocals and a delicate, but propelling, pulse underneath. But there are no weak links here – First Matter has seemingly limitless depths to explore and gets an unreserved recommendation. Speaking of exploring, though, I’m off to dig out Not Alone to see what else I’ve missed… (Jeremy Bye)
Terre Thaemlitz has an interesting dissenting take on charity compilations “Helping Without Recompense Against Music and Art Fundraisers”.