Review: Roger Tellier-Craig – Études (Second Editions, Feb 21)

Even excluding than his previous membership in seminal post-rock bands Fly Pan Am and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, I was already familiar with Roger Tellier-Craig from his work as a trio with Karl Fousek and Devon Hansen, who together have released several cassettes containing some truly fascinating and innovative electroacoustic improvisation. Each, unsurprisingly, also has their own distinguished catalog of solo work, but regrettably I have not made the effort to dig into any of these. Tellier-Craig’s new full-length CD Études makes a strong case for my need to change that. It’s a 50 minute tour-de-force of mind-blowing computer music, with the French sound artist manipulating a diverse array of heavily processed sound objects into increasingly complex formations. On opening track “Duelle,” the arrangements are frequently interrupted by stretches of silence, yet Tellier-Craig’s arsenal of digitally dissected concrete sounds still coalesce into bombastic cacophonies, especially near the end when there’s a brief hint of crystalline melody hidden amidst the tangles. Silence adopts a much more significant role in the following “Jamais d’un vouloir,” where the composer utilizes pure absence to evoke a Frey-esque suspense. Like Frey, too, the nature of the intermittent intrusions of sound recontextualize the moments when there is no sound present at all; the listener is suspended between processing what they’ve just heard and anticipating what will come next—the fragile, flimsy platform we build beneath our feet to avoid falling into nothingness. Études certainly draws from the acrobatics and artificiality that computer-based electroacoustic music makes possible, but it is never cold nor lifeless. As human listeners, we’re always searching for warmth and emotion even when there is none to be found; there is plenty to be found here.

Études is available for purchase from Forced Exposure in the US, Anost in Europe, and on streaming services.