Montreal Sound Matter

John Cage said that “When we separate music from life we get art.” From what I’ve read about Cage, he probably meant this at least two different ways– one, that art is something existing outside of the ordinary, in its own world; and two, that “art” is a false distinction– a label, nothing more. And if he saw it these ways, I’m sure he was equally comfortable with both. For the purposes of this review, though, I’m going to focus on the first.

“Montreal Sound Matter,” a Pogus Productions release initiated by Francisco Lopez, presents nearly an hour of inscrutable sound tableaus– sourced, but divorced from, their origins within the city of Montreal. Although Lopez speaks of an “intentionally restricted universe” of sound possibilities, my skeptical side says that a city of nearly 2 million people is still a pretty big field. To open up greater possibilities, the artists shared their environmental recordings to create a common pool.


As always, it is the individual handling of the sounds that makes the difference. Tomas Phillips’ track “White.gray” begins with a nearly inaudible low hum and disappears long enough to make you question whether you hit the pause button. Soon, returns as some sort of electrical siren/insect granular chirp. Chantal Dumas manages to work all manners of birds, both simulated and natural, into her piece “s/t w/t”. It is especially interesting to note the un-reality of even the most natural sounds– their volumes in relation to one another, their placement, movement. It is a wonderful collage where all properties of sound are in flux.

As is common with many albums I enjoy, I am left with a sense that there is not only more to be heard, but more to learn.

One Response to “Montreal Sound Matter”

  1. Startling Moniker’s Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2006! « Startling Moniker Says:

    […] 4) Various — “Montreal Sound Matter” – Easily the most inscrutable album of the year, in my opinion. Constructed from a pool of sounds collected in Montreal, Francisco Lopez cajoles a group of sound artists to present a variety of altered environmental recordings that only slightly resemble an Earthly city. However, the “bleeding edge” quality of the recording and construction of these tracks are of great appeal. Available through Pogus Productions. […]

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