Con-tre-temps. The word itself retains a certain musicality, but the aftertaste it leaves once the three syllables have been pronounced undeniably betrays a latent feeling of uneasiness. Distressing, awkward, disturbing and almost upsetting, this aura of discomfort, if combined with the sound of the term itself (|ˈkɒntrətɒ̃|) is the essence of the music presented by Joel Ebner.
Have you heard City States’ Geography? Have you met their elegantly corrupt pop? Have you ever perceived the lurking, badly suppressed hints of electronic music moving swiftly between the intro to “Uncharted Waters” (Kangding Ray, anyone?) and the overall minimalist approach to pop? All Joel Ebner had to do was let loose that impending need to explore new musical areas and niches. And find a Korg R3 and a software music sequencer for that purpose. The result is an inspired collection of ideas which appears beautifully incoherent and not at all consistent.
Thus we find ourselves immersed in magma of white noise and noise tout court (“Maximalism”), where the trap set by Ebner forces us to witness modulations, subtle waveforms echoing in a sea of digital bitstreams. So we go from Merzbow, Pan Sonic (the world misses them a great deal, by the way) and Ryojy Ikeda to the likes of Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Plaid. If you think that all these names have not much in common, you are right: they don’t. But it really doesn’t matter.
“Dear Masami”, “Telemusik” and “An Impasse” on one side, and “Maximalism” and “Tyranny of the Beast” on the other — one wonders whether it is the same album we are talking about. Indeed it is. This is music written within the space of two weeks, and one can’t help but feel the urgency and the eureka moments young Ebner must have gone through while experimenting with his synth.
Pronouncement is an enthusiastic debut and a fresh study on where noise and ambient are in the second decade of this century. This album does not reinvent music, therefore if you are looking for a ground-breaking piece of music, keep searching (and good luck: let us know), but it is extremely enjoyable and rewarding. A few ideas — take the gorgeous martial gait that is “Tyranny of the Beast”, for instance — are as promising as a debut can get. The beauty of this album is indeed its naive (in a good and constructive sense) spontaneity. “Let’s enjoy Contretemps now, before it’s too late”, says an imaginary press release nobody would (wrongly) ever write. The time is now, the noise is perennial.