The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Compiling & Filing: Jan St. Werner's Favourite Albums
Nick Hutchings , April 30th, 2015 11:23

With his operatic performance-cum-radio play Miscontinuum released as an album earlier this year, the Mouse On Mars man takes Nick Hutchings on a trawl of his favourite avant-garde and experimental records

Bernard_parmegiani_1430392648_resize_460x400

Bernard Parmegiani - La Memoire Des Sons
The radio station WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) and French national radio had a collaboration project and they wanted to put artists together. As a result I stayed with Bernard Parmegiani and his wife at his house in Provence. He was a really tough nut to crack. He was really strict about what he accepted as interesting music and the result was that the only record collection with any meaning to him was the stuff on GRM, Groupe de Recherches Musicales, including all the stuff from the school of Pierre Schaeffer up to now, where he also released his music.

Parmegiani was a funny guy, he was an actor. He came from mime. The first thing he showed me, when he picked me up from the train station, was his mime technique. It was a morph of different gestures. One was the captain on a ship looking through his binoculars, and then he would twist it with one hand and that would become the action of a worker on the street hammering a hole into the ground and that would become a baker. So he'd go from different professions and it was totally weird.

It was an interesting encounter, but I also came to understand how he makes his music and it didn't take the magic away for me. What I like is he can take a really minute sample and explore it to an extreme. He comes up with interesting results. It's not like he dries out and squeezes the last bit of audio information out of the sample, he really rocks it. He turns it into something. And he's not afraid of going different ways. Sometimes it can be sequential and even rhythmic; sometimes it's just super abstract or ambient, long decayed kind of stuff.

He did a few tracks that are more breakcore and more advanced rhythmically than say Squarepusher stuff or drill & bass stuff, because it adds this element of freedom where you could have a break that can last longer than you're allowed to when you follow the rhythmic grid. So even if you'd have an odd break in a drum & bass thing or a Squarepusher thing they usually still get back to it in a grid system, but Parmegiani breaks it. He makes things with how he breaks the samples and chops the sounds up. He's definitely an important figure to me, as much as Luc Ferrari was. Those two guys from that French electro-acoustic school were my favourites.


If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.