ACL’s first review of the new year! Our readers were introduced to Montreal’s Maxime Corbeil-Perron last year as part of Le Pélican Noir, and were introduced to KATHARSIS when it was featured as one of our Best Album Covers of 2014. Now we turn to the music.
Corbeil-Peiron’s sound may come as a slight surprise to followers of Le Pélican Noir, as the full band works in the arena of post-rock with a modern composition bent. Among other things, Corbeil-Perron is responsible for the claviers and electronics. But on KATHARSIS, it’s all electronics, or at least the surface is electronic, as the organic elements have been pulverized for publication. Here and there a tap on a bell or distant horn crashes the mix, setting up a delicious contrast. The horn on “Fragments” (2011) sounds like that of an approaching truck, cut off in mid-blow. The artist is tricking the ears, not to be tricky, but to play with expectations, in much the same way as his influences. These include not only Paul Klee, whose art graces the cover, but Wassily Kandinsky, whose “Komposition no. 8” (seen directly below) is a strikingly synaesthetic presentation of color, lines and curve. Each artist delves into abstraction, yet retains a sense of balance. Their oeuvre is accessible despite being difficult to comprehend.
Corbeil-Perron takes the same approach in his work. The drones here have patterns, although the patterns are hard to discern. None of the five pieces jumps from its boundaries, yet each wanders far within. Even the loudest segments are more abstract than abrasive, more muted than menacing. The music seems always just beyond the mind’s ear. The most confrontational piece, “Vertiges” (2012), is designed as an aural reflection of vertigo, yet it contains moments of surprising tenderness, like the hand on the wall, steadying the body. Like his influences, Corbeil-Perron offers beauty as an entry point; once the listener is inside the composition, the composer is free to experiment. The greater the dynamic contrast, the deeper the impression, as the final few minutes of “Vertiges” offer the album’s most intriguing sounds.
Thanks to a unifying current, the album flows well as a whole. Whether cycle-based (“A N T I”) or noise-based (“Atomes”), the waves of feedback and soft drones work together to lay a foundation for the overall set. One begins to draw comparisons: for example, the surges of “A N T I” (first ending at 3:20) correspond to the receding horns of “Fragments”. Each one dies suddenly, like an interrupted thought, before rising once again from the synapses. This release-and-catch echoes the connection between aural and physical art: the hearing/looking and the comprehending/seeing. As Klee writes, “Once emerged from the night / heavier and dearer and stronger”, so too the listeners are given the chance to glean more through abstraction than through the common and direct. (Richard Allen)