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9 May 2017

Pierre Henry - 'Mouvement-Rythme-Étude' (Philips)

I can't find any record of this particular edition anywhere online (spine/catalogue #6510 017) but it's well-known under the same title with a different cover. This edition may be a bit less attractive but the copy I found was in really nice shape and that's a good thing, because with Henry and similar musique concrete records, the space is important. Surface noise would get in the way of the echo, which resonates off of the gurgles and bloops that mostly populate this record. I can't imagine what it must have been like to see this dance piece being performed; I think a lot of this was recorded with a microphone in a room, because you really hear the echo, though maybe it's a tape effect. And Ninjinski was somehow part of it! As a non-visual source for psychedelic enjoyment, it's hard to get much better than records like this - eschewing any recognisable genre, including drone/noise, these are sounds assembled in a way that creates a whole new musical ontology. Which is why the title of this record is so apt - it seems bland at first, but fuck yeah it's all about movement and rhythm, and Henry is often thought of (by me, at least when I'm not thinking too deeply about him) as purely a technological innovator and not so much as a composer. And while an electronic record from the 70s with a track called 'Continuum' could be a stereotype, the sounds contained within are a far cry from cosmic synth rackeffects or freakazoid drone - its more like a strange object bouncing around several dimensions, occasionally refracting with the sound that you hear when MP3s are compressed poorly, except this was caused probably by Henry grabbing the spinning reel-to-reel loop with his hand (or some other such trick). There's an incredible amount of diversity across this record, and maybe that's the reason (along with the expense) that I've never hunted down any other Pierre Henry records: this is satisfying enough. 'Pureté' is maybe the most dazzling in terms of 'how the fuck did he do that', a constantly shifting series of mild sound-bumps, still sounding like a future we could only dream of even though it's been nearly half a century since it was recorded. The 'Adagio' pieces here refer to a traditional musical mode here, and that's another reminder of how this record reinvents music itself, the aforementioned ontology of its own. For people who are scared of the 'avant-garde', I'd recommend a dip into this record, because there's enough of an embracing of the fundamental concepts of 'music' here that it can be grokked by anyone with even a remotely open mind.

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