Experimental music, often enough, is difficult to listen to for virtually any reason that one could muster—after all, by definition, anything can and should be expected from artists in the genre. Sometimes the experiment fails, however. Sometimes, listenability is discarded in favor of some other quality. If the point of experimental music is to innovate, to find new sounds, new forms, and new approaches, then it’s inevitable that much of the byproduct is going to hurt to hear.
Still, there are musicians in the field who seem to have a knack for making pleasant sounds and never stray far from being generally agreeable with their output.
Jean-Paul Garnier, releasing under the name Loopool, shows an ability to keep things civil with his new release on Amok Recordings, Loopool Applies Pressure. This is a collection of sixteen tracks, most running less than four minutes, compiled from seven years of released and unreleased material. Garnier takes us through sonic environments familiar to experimental music fans: underwater dream worlds, late-night highways beyond the reach of AM radio, and darkened classrooms awash in the glimmer of dying film projectors.
In his best moments, though, Garnier constructs novel spaces ripe with untold stories. The fifth track, “Hate’s Music,” is a fifty-nine-second burst of rhythmic clicks and cartoonish interjections that suggests a disused factory populated by sentient machinery. Other pieces evoke scenes as diverse as monsters dining communally on the listener’s own flesh or formal meetings with secret emperors.
Almost everything in this collection is interesting and easy enough to consume, yet there are a number of flaws that become evident with repeated listens. Synthetic timbres run throughout the collection, creating an ever-present feeling of amusement-park tram rides across constructed dioramas rather than true adventures in real settings. Garnier also occasionally exhibits an excess of comfort with the tropes of the late-20th-century electroacoustic composers. The ten-minute “Spire Crashing” is a stochastic assemblage of overbearing piano notes and flute hits that Arnold Schoenberg may have found tedious.
Finally, because this is a retrospective collection rather than a concentrated album, there is little thematic connection between the tracks. This is understandable, but the effect remains. The presentation reads more as a résumé than as a unified creative endeavor. In fact, Loopool Applies Pressure is a testament to Garnier’s talent as a sound artist which he may well find useful in furthering his professional career. Judging from other things he has posted on the internet, Garnier is a committed experimentalist and has established himself impressively within his genre. How far one can take a career as a not-quite-musician is hard to say, but Garnier is certainly a man with talent. It would not be surprising to see his name listed in the credits of some future film or video game. As entertainment technology advances, too, it’s not impossible that the market for amusing soundscapes might explode. If and when there is any demand for this stuff, Loopool Applies Pressure should be enough of a portfolio for Garnier to claim dibs on whatever work there is to be had.
From this listener’s point of view, though, the work, in all of its cleverness and likability, will still have only limited appeal.
01) Below the Comfort
02) Sun Standing Still
04) Unnamed as of Yet
05) Hate’s Music
06) Sagan’s Nightmare
07) Flight of Hayabusa
08) Quintet for Conch
10) Accepting the Fall
12) Old Wounds
13) Keymap to My Heart
14) Spire Crashing
15) Eat the Martyrs
16) Mourning Long Distance Loss
17) Trouble Speaking (Bonus Disc)