Switched On – Franck Vigroux: Matériaux (Erototox Decodings)

franck-vigroux

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This extended EP was released digitally towards the end of 2020 by Franck Vigroux, and will soon be available on vinyl. It reveals a more experimental and less beat-driven side of the French multimedia artist, last heard of by many on his solo 2017 album Barricades, or his 2015 collaboration with Matthew Bourne. There, the two paid an amended musical homage to Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity album on the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

What’s the music like?

Minimal…but very descriptive. Vigroux proves himself to be a sonic architect, capable of telling a story with the barest material in a form of ‘musique concrète’. Much of the music here could soundtrack a film or an installation, for the images created are powerful and lasting.

The tracklisting is very simple – the ten tracks named Matériaux I through to Matériaux X – and the music follows suit, but with markedly different moods. Matériaux II explores blasts of sound, as does Matériaux VI, which portrays a massive space but with an increasing sense of dread, as a progression you might hear in a horror movie starts to build. Here Vigroux’s sounds are like a church organ, played at the highest range – while at the other end of the scale, Matériaux IV has a lovely rich sound with hints of quarter tones, like a group of monks recorded from the other end of a monastery. Matériaux VII stays lower in the spectrum but is still uneasy.

The two outer pieces are the most substantial, and Matériaux X is effectively a story in several parts. Early on there are individual sounds like tendrils twisting inwards to form a cluster, in the sort of style Greek composer Xenakis would have revelled, but then the sound dampens considerably, becoming easier on the ear but ensuring the listener remains wary.

Does it all work?

It does, once the listener buys into the sonic and musical language used on the album. There are no melodies as such here, no rhythm either – but the sounds and harmonies are everything, setting the colour and the mood.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Matériaux reveals Franck Vigoroux making music that is by turns caustic and comforting, and never less than dramatic.

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