Constellation's fall batch includes a new signing in Jason Sharp, whose music feels both quintessentially out-Montreal and also incredibly fresh: a saxophonist and sound artist, his music absorbs drone, techno and musique concrete, weaving together instrumental anthologies that cross all three paths. There are horrendous noise blasts, gorgeous pieces a la a Godspeed ballad and plenty more. A short but extremely vast record, is A Boat Upon Its Blood.
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God, it’s been so fucking long since I’ve been able to type-yell a review to the theme of “This new Constellation release is amazing!!!”. All year, the CST crew have been quiet, but now they hit with three brand new records for fall (call it autumn, if you must, but fall sounds so much better). Each record is instrumental, combining into a triple-treat offering that pays unspoken homage to their retired Musique Fragile series -- three records by three different artists, packaged together like a sonic venn diagram. This one by Jason Sharp -- noise artist, Matana Roberts sax collaborator and general sound organiser -- is easily one of the most mind-blowing things I’ve heard in 2016, an emotive collation of avant garde and beyond-post that will likely chill you to the core.
For the most part, I love how this record trembles. It opens on harsh wind transposed for instruments, the first part of the self-titled suite billowed by strings and chimes, terrified and upheld by synth chords that struggle to keep things rooted to the ground. In its second component, discordant string drone combines with a blood-curling pulse, the whole piece sounding like it’s sending out radar in search of a cadence it’ll never find. The third part is a jittering, marching-band techno track that sounds like someone squirming in a cramped space.
It’s a sign of how superbly Sharp can build the bubbling process of anxiety, and while this record tries on so many different sound ideas -- the hissier, more ear-crackling noise and glitch of “In The Construction of the Chest” and the full-on free jazz noise blast of “A Blast at Best” -- it reaches the heights it does through a precise approach to structure and narrative, an obsession with keeping some unspoken atmosphere at the centre. He calls it “music for amplified heart and breath”, and describes both as instruments on the record itself -- it’s literalised in a couple of tracks through heavy breathing, but it’s the tragic tension of the record that keeps it consistent. “Still I Sit With You Inside Me” closes the record with gorgeous, swaying stringwork a la Gorecki tempered by Godspeed-esque guitar, kissing off a record that sounds all things fretful, fierce and beautiful -- an example of making cerebral music that beats the heart.
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