Racine ~ Quelche Chose Tombe

Quelche Chose Tombe (Something Falls) is a mirror of modern anxiety, laying forth fear and anguish in equal measure.  The music is suitably dark, dangling on the edge of drone yet marked by blackened electronic beats. Uncertainty is the new normal, old truths obscured like the barely distinguishable church bells of the opening track: first appearing at 00:35, quickly drowned out by orchestral tones, surfacing again in the second minute only to be drenched by more insistent tones.  The same principle seems to hold true for all positive news, all encouragement, all attempts at peace: quiet voices lost in the babble of advertisements, media alarm and ever amplified politics.

But is the louder voice better?  In a famous story of the prophet Elijah, the LORD speaks not in the earthquake, not in the wind, but in a “still, small voice.”  Racine offers the tumult ~ the skittering beats of the title track’s second movement ~ but then pauses the track for a few seconds of silence.  Only then can the voices be heard that have been there all along, a choir fading to a conversation.  Something falls, but something also rises.  As the piece declines to return to a busier state, we realize that we’re used to interpreting tracks in the opposite fashion: loudness as development rather than softness.  Racine is making the latter point.  “sujet” uses a similar tactic, for two minutes languishing in dissonant stereo slides before pausing, then transforming into a melodic, pattern-based piece.  While the dissonance continues in the background, it’s no longer the lead story, and we learn something from this as well: anxiety is a side effect of where we put our focus.

This dance continues throughout the album, reflecting the human struggle.  Tracks refuse to stay where they are, defying definition.  Organ tones are met by electronically modified voices.  Sudden silences appear; patterns halt and resurface.  Birds tweet, but their songs are manipulated.  Fellow Montreal artist Keru Not Ever appears on two tracks, Enchanted Lands on one, adding even odder timbres; the track in which they all appear is simultaneously the sweetest and most abrasive.

It seems that suffering has sent Racine into a chrysalis state, but it’s not yet clear what will emerge. The same holds true for the world as a whole.  The irony of titling the closing track “Untitled” (“Sans Titre”) brings the point home.  After the slow growth of “Geranium,” the finale leaves the ending wide open. Are all the real birds gone?  Will the future be only a pale, pixelated version of what has come before? Racine seems empathetic, but not optimistic; it’s still a step in the right direction.  (Richard Allen)

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