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Marc Leclair

Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes

(Mutek Records; US: 6 Jun 2006; UK: 11 Apr 2005)

Marc Leclair, who also records under the Akufen, has a Matthew Herbert kind of approach to his art, a discipline of creating his brand of microhouse through chopped-up samples of radio static or guitar or classical music. Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes (Music for Three Pregnant Women) is most certainly Marc Leclair over Akufen, since that micro-sampled house aesthetic is pretty far from sight. Inspired by his wife and two of his friends’ concurrent pregnancies, the work is Leclair’s concept-album response to pregnancy, and it is suitably (though not entirely) developmental, proceeding through aquatic, fetal Doppler to a relaxed kind of subtle house—not quite the blossoming revelation of birth, but at least within genre.


The album plays out the progression from one cell to full-term, a 71-minute continuous-playing evolution. The nine tracks are titled with the days of the fetus’ life, from “1er Jour” through birth at “274e Jour”. We know this going in; and I wonder how much this knowing the theme alters the experience of listening to the music. Because separated from the concept, these compositions could represent anything: when the rain and thunder of a summer storm provide the background to “85e Jour”, how are we supposed to understand a growing baby?


So, do we think of this as individual tracks, or a continuous whole? Neither is perfect; individual tracks take a long time to establish individual character, often expanding in warm ambient synths for a few minutes before a distinctive theme establishes itself. And from the perspective of the whole, there’s often a lull between “jours”, as one track’s percussion fades, another’s yet to arrive—there are multiple lulls where the expected development seems to have halted.


“1er Jour” opens proceedings with a skeletal rhythm traded between headphones like a heartbeat; as the beat slowly builds, it gains a kind of complexity, adding more lines in a space-filled wash of sound. A single note is held throughout, the thread of life. Pings of electricity-like signals from a prenatal nervous system create a kind of computer-infused life … and it’s begun.


Tracks go through various phases—tocking, tinkling or wallowing—but a lot of the time there’s no real sense of a “track,” more of a continuum. “85e Jour” opens without beat, a watery synth-pad womb, but just continues in this vein, offering little by way of track development. “114e Jour” is better, slowly building a theme through repetitions of this jangly back-and-forth synth bit between speakers; and the soft heart-beat that intrudes and fades at 3:30 is a nice touch. When it gets going, “150e Jour” is a pretty, warm-synth and triplet-driven track with the soft beginning of more break-beat influenced, harder electro sounds. The complex rhythms and guitar-sampled house sounds don’t really enter the picture until the second-to-last track (but it’s a highlight, all unexpected complexity and groove).


It’s in keeping with the disc’s theme that the final track, “205e Jour”, is the most complete: the only place where any sustained sense of Leclair’s 4/4 techno heritage is really exhibited. Taken as a whole, Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes is an interesting project, though perhaps more so in concept than in execution. It’s primarily one for fans of more experimental ambient/electronic music, because while it has some great moments, it can be tough-going for those used to tracks with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Rating:

Dan Raper has been writing about music for PopMatters since 2005. Prior to that he did the same thing for his college newspaper and for his school newspaper before that. Of course he also writes fiction, though his only published work is entitled "Gamma-secretase exists on the plasma membrane as an intact complex that accepts substrates and effects intramembrane cleavage". He is currently studying medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.


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Marc Leclair at Mutek
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