I have to admit—and I don’t think I’m alone in this—that there are few things more frustrating in experimental music than these records that are entirely surrounded by information that is left to the audience’s imagination rather than defined as a comprehensive work of sound-art with the artist’s personal sonic stamp applied to its theme. These records usually come with a vague title (if they have one at all), untitled tracks, and little to no explanation about the meaning behind the work contained within. These are almost exclusively “artists” hiding behind formless abstractions, lazily using the paint-by-numbers excuse of “we want the listener to form their own story,” forcing their audience to do the work for them so that they can simply unleash an amorphous, thoughtless blob of sound upon the world without facing the burden of having to make sense of it themselves. Worse yet, these artists send their records out for review to unsuspecting music journalists and expect—miraculously, with a straight face—a subjective description and judgment of their work.
There are only a few artists working within the musique concrète field who follow this tradition that are able to “get away with it.” They do so by consistently churning out brilliant works that contain just enough thematic focus to allow the listener to find their way through the proverbial forest-maze that they orchestrate. The most infamous of the bunch is Daniel Menche, whose bold titles (for example, from recent memory, Quanta of Light, Feral, Marriage of Metals) are often more than enough to cement his audience firmly into his desired world for the duration of any given album despite a lack of track/chapter titles. A notable lesser-known example, however, is Cédric Peyronnet‘s work as Toy Bizarre, which—while never quite gathering the attention of experimental music’s powerhouses from Touch to Editions Mego, which he arguably deserves—has never failed to impress despite two decades of albums cryptically titled KDI DCTB with a respective number to catalog the specific experience. In the early summer of 1985, just a few short months before I escaped the womb, Peyronnet was already making crude field recordings with a friend of chirping crickets in the French countryside. Years later, these experiences would go on to shape his work of recording and abstracting specific places in time, opening sonic portals to the hidden worlds that lay beneath the surface of our perception. Though the record itself doesn’t contain an explanation as to the sound-art that is found on KDI DCTB 180, Drone Records were kind enough to supply this brief explanation from Peyronnet on their website:
“It’s all about a place. An unknown place. A hidden place. Hidden, you ask? Well, you have to be very familiar with the country to get there. There are few human traces and few signs that there is something there. It’s on the border of places. But never mind, it’s a real place. I can point it out on a map, but it will look like a blank space. It’s a place where you can feel there is something. There is a path deep in the woods, where, as a child, I used to run—walking was really too frightening there. I spent a lot of time there, trying to track down the essence of the place, trying to catch the unknown.”
Indeed, the album’s back cover displays a striking photograph of both life and death through the otherwise mundane: A living forest under an orange sky with a dead tree placed prominently as the primary subject of the image—a perfect representation of Peyronnet’s hidden countryside gateways to this unknown world. Its companion image for the front cover features the same color scheme and area, this time as seen through the reflection of a pool of water beneath the gnarled, long-dormant branches, desperately reaching for the warmth of the sun. It hammers the final point home: KDI DCTB 180 is the sound of this place mirrored, its hidden face only able to be glimpsed by our senses yet hopefully elaborated upon through Peyronnet’s audial work. This exceptional imagery gives the album both a vividly organic feel and a modestly psychedelic, if not spiritual edge.
Side A mimics both of these qualities, both through its final moments of building layers of pure, unencumbered field recordings, and through the bulk of the track, which features the powerful abstract edge that Peyronnet is known for. Its oscillating breadth hinges between low-end ritual vibrations that are similar to that of a dung chen and a scarce high-end audial abrasion that awakens the listener from meditation, just in time to hear the sounds of the natural world envelop them. Side B is noticeably less involved, exchanging the thick atmosphere of its companion in favor of the chatter of groups of frenzied life, portraying an image of a cloud of insects as its outer residents are picked off at its edges by diving birds. This order is seemingly maintained until the chatter suddenly drops out, welcoming a new, more foreboding sound of low rumbles and a subtle looping industrial crack. This heralds the approach of violence, with a far more chaotic return of the chatter and an ending of reverberating drones as they slowly crescendo to end the piece.
Complex and refined with radiant character as well as an unyielding dedication to creating a complete, sensible work of sound-art, Peyronnet’s creations continue to be criminally overlooked and undervalued. Thankfully, the good people at Drone Records continue to understand what makes a quality experimental album come to life, with KDI DCTB 180 perhaps being the most stunning example of their Substantia Innominata Series to date, the mission statement of which states:
“This series, with a special concept embracing the ‘unknown’, could be seen as an interface between experimental music and cultural science, psychoanalysis, and philosophy.”
It would be difficult to imagine a more clear example of that theme than what Toy Bizarre has offered here. In fact, the only negative aspect that I can sense has nothing to do with this record at all and everything to do with its status as the final installment of a trilogy that began with 2007’s KDI DCTB 039. Clearly, any chapter to a trilogy is only part of a greater whole, but asking your audience to keep up with three works that have been spaced out over the course of nearly a decade and between three separate labels may be asking a bit much. Thankfully, both of KDI DCTB 180‘s companion pieces—KDI DCTB 039 and KDI DCTB 151—can be found in digital format on the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Written by: S. L. Weatherford
Label: Drone Records (Germany) | Substantia Innominata Series / SUB-22 / 10″ LP
Electroacoustic / Experimental / Musique Concrete / Field Recordings / Drone Ambient