Remous is the latest album from Whitelabrecs, the label whose CD-Rs look like records. Having launched in January, the label is already up to number fifteen, and it’s safe to say that the venture has been a success.
This is the second sea-themed release from Le Petit Vague, the duo of Nicola Fornasari (Xu/Xu(e) and Diego Balconi, and their first full-length album. The ocean is again featured on the cover, thanks to the talents of Cesare Camardo, whose painted Polaroid is an apt reflection of the music within. Camardo’s paint is layered across photographs; Le Petit Vague’s looped improvisations are built on recognizable themes.
The journey launches with the longest, most abstract piece before delving into shorter, more relatable works. The track titles are all sequences of “Vague”, from “Vague #4” to “Vague #10”; “Vague #3 appeared on the previous EP. One might say that the sea as a whole seems an abstraction until one zeroes in on its parts: a beach, a strait, a current, a fjord. Once the outlines are perceived, comprehension can take place. After the sprawling opener has seceded, the senses sharpen, zeroing in on the sounds of toy psaltery and Tibetan bowls. The press release describes it as “murky”, but this is the wrong adjective; the form may be murky, but the sounds are sharp, in “Vague #7” like a blade against stone, cold and clear. If anything, the music is swirled, the English translation of remous.
While the vastness of the sonic tableau suggests the sea, a third of the album passes before any of the elements specifically sound like the sea. The bell tones of “Vague #5” suggest the tolling of a buoy: a marker, a boundary, a guide. In the album’s most dramatic piece, “Vague #4”, waves of drone wash over the listener while gong tones imitate depth charges. And darkness was upon the face of the deep. By separating chaos (improvisation) and form (loops), the artists honor the initial phase of creation. By the time the album ends, we are no nearer to comprehending the ocean, but have received insight through the duo’s sonic microcosm. (Richard Allen)