Philippe Petit

Multicoloured Shadows

An inveterate collaborator with everyone from Lydia Lunch to Faust, Cosey Fanni Tutti to Murcof, Philippe Petit is as much the musical travel agent he styles himself as he is a composer, DJ and innovative progenitor of the BiP _ HOp and Pandemonium Rdz labels. Multicoloured Shadows is a landmark in Petit’s three decades of honing his skills as a guide to musical roads less travelled and as a companion to others en route.

Adding another entry to his ever-expanding discography, Multicoloured Shadows slides into being on waves of close-miked tones and hissing panoramas, its parameters at once closely controlled and filled with a bustling sense of liberated purpose. Petit embarks upon a solo journey through the aural senses, constantly turning, burning, reeling and writhing in an arithmetic of sound subjected to the vagaries of both the stochastic and the stylus.

Petit deploys an almost baffling array of objects in an ever-twisting bricolage of noise and apparent confusion constructed from real, imaginary (or imaginative) and unusual instrumentation. The rattle of strings intersects with estranged vocal wails and glissandos that curve into being on ghostly elemental frissons of haunted musical machines, devices and effects tumbling over each other with dizzying results. His approach is filled with seemingly boundless energy, cut-ups performed in apparent real time with the palpable sense of a magpie eye always on the lookout for how to shape the ebb and flow of noises both recognisable and abstract into a coherent whole.

The pace of continual development Petit unveils on Multicoloured Shadows is frequently breathtaking, traipsing through ecstatic little synthesiser meanders one moment before delving to sounds explored, caressed and occasionally violently discarded in intensely realised close-up. Midway through ‘Tibdinbilla Sanctuary Part 1’ is pretty much like having brain surgery without anaesthetic, complete with miniature drills working their way into the skull while Petit operates skilfully but to seemingly obscure purpose. From that point onwards, sensations of post-trepannation weirdness and blissful delirium set the tone for the final ascent into an electrifying avant-shoegaze collage that at times resembles Konono No.1 exploring the swinging sounds of musique concrète.

Listening to Multicoloured Shadows cannot be approached as a casual proposition; there’s both too much going on and so much to absorb to let it fade into the background. Perhaps it could be too much to take in without the poor brain recoiling in confusion, set reeling under the relentless moan of virtual orchestrations slammed up sharp against a rattle of electronically redacted psalter or the clank and thud of percussion. But throughout, Multicoloured Shadows is delivered with the magisterial pomp of modernism mashed up in crisp juxtapositions that bring to mind not just the long French tradition of exploratory noise works rooted in Pierre Boulez’ sound research laboratories at IRCAM in Paris but also the brittle surrealism of Nurse With Wound at their most distractingly playful.

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