reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
The music for Atotal is half of an intricate story. To quote from the press release, Franck Vigroux created it as an audiovisual performance with regular collaborator Antoine Schmitt, their aim ‘to reconstruct in order to better deconstruct the processes of imposition of will by repetition and absolute synchronism, to propose a breach to a potentially life-saving decoincidence. The total work of art, when pushed to its paroxysm of absolute coincidence of the perceptions of a captive spectator, is similar to the techniques of mental manipulation of totalitarian regimes, proceeding by annihilation of the critical mind, repetitive semantic pounding, subliminal messages.’
Got that?! It bears reading a few times, along with the rest of the detail on Vigroux’s Bandcamp page, because the more you read it the more you realise how much thought the pair have put into the work.
What’s the music like?
The success of this album depends on how Vigroux’s music sits on its own, without visuals, as a single work of art. The answer is emphatic, for Atotal is never less than a powerful encounter for the listener, to the extent where it can be overwhelming on headphones. Certainly the images conjured up in the listener’s mind are very close to Schmitt’s pictures in the excerpt here:
The blasts of white noise circling around a two-note riff on Swinging Total are an illustration of how Vigroux creates a great deal from minimal beginnings. By contrast Atotal010 is well within itself, with remote breathing noises giving a primal, intimate air. Lame is another thrilling rush, a widescreen vortex of sound underpinned by a big beat, while Accelerando has similarly big textures but is disorientated, like the processing of a large machine.
Vigroux works his sparse material into the thrilling forward drive of Communication, and his writing has lots of spatial, semi-industrial elements to it. He can be caustic in style, but the likes of Perdu find him in descriptive mood, with flickers of sound near and far. Communication is again sparse material but has a thrilling forward drive. Side Total contrasts wave effects with blocks of sound, while Total Primus is great, a substantial track with rumbling bass and purer tones in the treble, not to mention a lumbering rhythm.
Does it all work?
It does, but a certain amount of caution should be advised – in a good way. This is music that can often hit its target square between the eyes, and while the effect can be thrilling it is not for every mood, being a treble espresso of music at times!
Is it recommended?
Very much so. Vigroux’s music is always worth exploring, his approach always interesting – and the music for Atotal is no exception to that rule.