Pierre Bastien is a french composer who is famed for making his own experimental mechanical instruments. Most famously he built an entire orchestra out of the children’s construction toy Meccano in the mid-eighties. Morphine Records seem delighted (and rightly so) to have the pioneer of robotic music signed to their label. As Blue As An Orange is available on vinyl LP and has delightfully pleasing cover art.
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- Blue As An Orange by Pierre Bastien
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This man was doing robot music before Aphex made it cool. Wait, did he? Has anyone? Squarepusher tried with his Z-machines but only achieved novelty. Bastien succeeds in creating truly interesting compositions to be played by complex pieces of machinery, primarily involving Meccano among other bolts and gears.
Despite their rigid identity, the machines actually manage to sound imperfect and natural, little slippages in rhythm helping the whole thing sound exactly like a digitally produced techno track. Though, if this guy put his mind to it then I’m sure he could make some bangers. But instead, we get something closer to the Contact Field Orchestra which has just been reviewed, but even more rough n ready and just plain strange. Some apparatus or other whirrs around, forming the main rhythmic layer, while other drum-like objects get knocked in the process. Other, often jazzier layers such as the trumpet on ‘Gnostic Illicit Song’ take centre stage for a bit, while dirgelike vocals moan quietly underneath. ‘Edo Ode’ sounds like a mechanical, instrumental version of Arthur Russell, pounding some low strings into an echo unit while some peaceful but scratchy instrument slides over the melee. The plucked string work on ‘Dub’s Bud’ is incredible. It has also just occurred to me that all of the track titles are palindromic. Amazing.
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