Bérangère Maximin

Dangerous Orbits

Bérangère Maximin’s Dangerous Orbits stands alone in the current experimental music landscape. Working in isolation in her Paris studio, Maximin does not pander to making it easy with beats and a polished pop sheen, rather this is music of wonderful experimentation. Dangerous Orbits works as a pair with her previous album Infinitesimal, utlising recurring elements such as sound moulding into different shapes. A brave album, it was recorded with no label backing, but this did not get in the way of her vision. She developed the themes, giving the whole work an expansive cosmic feel, and finally delivered a raw, beautiful, organic album.

Maximin comes from a musique concrete/electroacoustic background. Working from that platform, she mutates her writing into something very different, taking in "Kosmische Musik" and dub production ideas, bordering on classical music in places. Stretching the material to the limit, she’s created something that sounds like it is torn from within her. It calls for deep listening due to so many beautiful moments appearing out of the mixes which could be missed on a quick blast on a PC.

First track ‘Cracks’ is very similar to the start of the Xenakis’ ‘La Légende D’Eer’ piece, with high pitched shrill tones, and a slow build that is followed by a Maximin’s signature sound – the "hot/cold contrast" – which is similar to that crispy sound one gets walking in snow. It’s like stepping into an alien jungle with birdsongs, or the clanging of a bucket recorded down a well. ‘Glow’ unveils itself like something from the WDR studios in Cologne, a whirlpool of sound with depth charge bass. A metallic sound slithers across it, little explosions and low key ostinato, like a voluminous space age music.

‘A Day Closer’ is one of the first new pieces she composed, a return of the buzzing fly from the previous album, street sounds, sighs, scraping metal, then an amazing loop comes in, an echoing vocal which reminds me of an effect Joni Mitchell used on her The Hissing Of Summer Lawns album. Something seems to be getting dragged, the beat of the loop going on over all this mayhem. There are breaths, sighs, and again the high piercing noise above, like something Scott Walker could have recorded recently, or even like say the backing track of Iggy Pop’s Mass Production from The Idiot.

To follow is the longest piece of the album, ‘OOP (Our Own Planet)’. The piece starts with the echoing vocals returning and slowly mutating, the birds chirping, then it melts into the main refrain with a beautiful transition, a truly oceanic melody. A low metallic drone roars like the slow building of a mantra. More sounds pop up briefly; piano keys tinkle now and then, low bass rumbles. Gavin Bryars comes to mind. Then the cymbals clash, the drums come in as the tempo speeds up, the climax builds, something happens that sounds like a manic viola in the depths of the mix, like Derek Bailey on Basil Kirchin’s World Within Worlds. Then another level of vocals rise, a song for the siren. The siren calls approach on a rough sonic sea, the manic strings chopping and sawing through the sound wall, the vocals rising higher. Then comes the progressive release, the thunder storm slowly moving away, the room gradually returning to the silence.

Maximin concludes by going back to the beginning. ‘No Guru Holds Me’ starts with the same high pitched shrill tones of the opener ‘Cracks’, but this is the end of the journey. Strings clang, the alien jungle and the beautiful walking in the snow sounds reappear again. Then it all slowly fades out, as if the listener’s leaving the place with intrusions of noise, breaking glass and strange metallic roars. The impression of immersion last a bit longer with the notes Maximin wrote around the five tracks in her own inimitable style and which appear on the booklet and back cover. They paint surreal pictures while listening, and add even more mystery to the music. What a journey, what an album. Where will she take us next?

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