. issue IX : ii .
And now for something completely different: a hypertextual exploration of the droning acousmatic art of Trio Saccacomie (Quebecois electronic artists Érick d’Orion, Guillaume Théroux-Rancourt and James Schidlowsky). Their 2001 experiments at the Avatar studios were released in 2004 on No Type’s Annexe label as Allumé-lui Le Calumet, which means “On Her Peace Pipe.” Like the function of the calumel-calumet, Calumet offers, indeed, contractual rite of passage — one that’s submissive and submerged in its own excess of exceeded misgivings. Annexe curators David Turgeon and Aimé Dontigny (who work with d’Orion on Napalm Jazz ‘and more’), describe Calumet‘s “aesthetics of deforestation,” recalling systemic disruption, uprooting like bronchial microvasculature beached and bleached, whole organs drying, scenically, in an abetted landscape. But these pressured, breathless tracks hold the listener deep down under the bottom-timely, protean, ticklish roar of ear barotrauma.
Key conceits of Calumet are indigenous to the Americas — peace pipes [make?] smoke signals; sylvan totemism — and the album roils, unsympathetically, in a groundedness consonant with those cultures, presenting tepid, callow vapors and strata of sound nutritive, terse, dense, grimy, and under-the-fingernails. The listener is drowned (alive) (dead) or buried (alive) (dead) — quite: these ends of pressure and internment also dispatch obscurity: the person ceases to remain, their body swallowed by their own swallows. “Canoë Dub” is the only song without the warm womb of soil to its unearthly sonic amazement, but with a savory metallic tang evokes that churning, cavernous installation of revolutionized machines spawned by the concept art imagination. Yet whatever the timbre, the sunless spectrum of sound Calumet drags forth from the well orifices and subterranean consciousnesses are utterly effective.
Calumet is compelling acousmatic foley with an experiential process both linear and presently involving, yet produces an experience so heightened as to be dissociative, unfamiliar so deep in its own skin, a the peak of attentional compression where life is most evidently fatal. Potentially human sounds — peripheral and rare birds in three songs — are chilling not in themselves, but in the listeners’ uncaring attitude as they wheel away, blank and unqualifiable. “Berceuse” (“Lullaby”) encapsulates the whole project: the proprioceptive lulling built from rotary swatches of sound and regularity hijacks the midbrain to enforce the acceptance of one’s safety. Feedback pervades Calumet, whining and chittering in inscrutable transmissions; how many things we know only once they’re decoded — but when sensorily raw, they’ve failed. Calumet offers an experience of delving, and, like its transmissions, enshrouds a meaning you haven’t fathomed yet.
“calme sur le lac”
; or, “Calm On The Lake” furls the curtain with a jolting clang, a suspended gong imprudently assaulted with a steel pipe wrench, pain and acute inflammation blooming out. Saccacomie’s choice is quite dangerous for the listener whose volume was too loud, but it’s also effective. Swannee whiny fallout buffers into submersion, ‘the squeeze’ [High Pressure Nervous System gets nervous]; atmospheric gurgles speak for sinusoidal springs in us escaping under pressure; then, on the silt soft floor, gaze out at feedback washes, a paradoxically tidal masseuse gains aquatic traction at this depth; forget geodesy down here, you and your one tidal gauge beached ashore, useless; “Calme Sur Le Lac” is a ballroom of controlled terror and stately motion under the persistent calm of your heart.
And yet this lake is calmed — mirror-smooth and appropriately associated with revelatory or transgressive tropes (a holding-cell, a seal, a gateway) and underneath it you walk on a basin floor and don’t breathe what will soon be air. Lakes inland — separated from the extreme, intemperate landscape of the ocean — are apart, part isolated incidents that bleed themselves out with slow prestige, draining and draining, and part repercussive connection, buried slow in annealing sediment; a lake is a moment in geologic time like an unforeseen respite, this freak solace held fast some many hundreds of years. Lakes get to be all the time what an ocean is before the storm.