A few weeks ago, I was chatting with Romain Barbot, one of the three heads behind the French tape label BLWBCK, about one of their releases, namely Romain de Ferron’s Couvent de la Tourette — an album that has been a part of my daily playlist / music routine ever since it was released. As with most BLWBCK releases, Couvent de la Tourette has already sold out, but unlike any others, it hasn’t received a proper review. Actually, it hasn’t received any reviews at all. Are you kidding me? It isn’t possible that no capable music writer enjoyed this album; it’s more plausible that people simply didn’t know how to put their impressions of Couvent de la Tourette in words. That said, perhaps that job has been left to us, as Heathen Harvest has always been the place for the right words about the right music.
The first thing that I want to point out about this release is its sheer immensity. Couvent de la Tourette consists of nearly 70 minutes of music, split into four long movements and two interludes. Everything on this tape was recorded in Sainte Marie de la Tourette in Éveux, France — a modernist architectural masterpiece designed by Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis sometime in the 1950s. Ferron — who is also a member of Insiden and released a split tape with Saåad last year — lived and worked there, and had the chance to play the church organ for hours. As you’ll hear, he was able to master its specific voice within the acoustics of the building, and what’s more, create an organic, vivid free-form music out of all this combined.
His tape on BLWBCK consists of four untouched improvisations. Constant long, tense crescendos and a relentless worship of space, reverb and volume are two exceptional qualities which this spectacular architectural monument has to offer in abundance due to its outstanding design. Multiple voices overlap, melodic patterns sometimes repeat and occasionally shine over each other like hands reaching through the surface of water. I wonder how one could stop playing in such a place — how you could find the strength to leave such an intense sonic environment?
Following all of the melodic trends that weave throughout the entirety of Couvent de la Tourette is like an addiction. You listen and hear the sound of the organ, then imagine the fingers and feet of Romain de Ferron layering tone over tone over tone, but these impressions don’t end with man and instrument. You feel the whole building resonating, the air getting saturated with sound and its reflections — a very intense, focused, and perfectly structured organism. The small interludes do help you get a tiny grasp of reality; to be reminded that this is not composed music, but improvisation. You hear people talking and walking around until the keys are pressed again to unleash the polyphonic voice of Sainte Marie de la Tourette, channeled and shaped in total sonic freedom.
02) (Sing Song)
03) Sing Song