Constellation, the famed experimental record label from Canada might be known for releasing most of the monumental works from Montreal’s post-rock scene, but surely and steadily they have also been putting out some intriguing works of experimental electronic music. An example was Joni Void’s 2017 Selfless, an excellent specimen of the adventurous side of electronic music. Another artist that has found a home in Constellation is no other than William Jourdain, known from his project Automatisme.
With Automatisme Jourdan walks down a path paved by a long lineage of iconoclastic producers, including the likes of Mika Vainio and Carsten Nicolai. By finding a point of origin in the use of field recordings, Jourdain transforms these sonic landscapes into a range of different sceneries. Through the use of rhythmic glitch, noise, sonic collage, and slow drones, Automatisme carves out an avant-garde music ethic, which encapsulates ideas from dub techno to power electronics. Having released his debut album, Momentform Accumulations a few years back, and continuing to build a strong discography with his collaboration with Erinome in Post-Landscape and the self-released E.T.I Space, Transit Et Indivu, Jourdain now sets out on a new journey with Transit.
As the title of the album suggests, this is a record that does not stay still. It is always moving between different moods and areas with great fluidity. The kickoff to this work is intriguing as it introduces the ambient side of Automatisme with a mystical quality before the glitch element takes over in a most emphatic manner. But, despite the schizoid element, Jourdain navigates through, there is always a return towards this atmospheric edge in its different manifestations. “Bureau 3” presents a dense atmosphere, as the constant, piercing frequency carries over the deep sounding synth percussion building an alarming sense with its subtle increase in volume over time. On the other hand, “Bateau 2” sees a more serene viewpoint rise to the surface as the synths arrive like waves from an unknown point of origin.
The drone element is one of the key factors in creating such a strong and diverse ambiance for the record. Still, Jourdain does not offer a pedestrian rendition of drone music and performs some interesting sonic alchemy to achieve this result. “Bureau 1” sees this complicated quality come forth, as Automatisme lays down the foundation of the ambiance through the use of drones, with Jourdain causing the track to evolve through the incorporation of glitch elements slowly. The resulting ambiance is asphyxiating, radiating with a claustrophobic quality as if you find yourself trapped inside a submarine deep under the surface of the sea.
Where drone and ambient elements form the foundation of this work, it is the glitch and noise qualities that provide its inhuman heartbeat. The harsh quality of that scene gives a volatile and unpredictable characteristic to the progression. The opening track features such a wonderful field of sonic collages, with Jourdain pushing into the power electronics territory with his extravagant ideas. At the same time, this element interacts with the rhythmic aspects of the record, laying out some bizarre beats. “Bureau 2” sees the soft, palpable synth percussion adding to the movement caused by the glitchy synth, creating this illusion of conflict between the subtle quality of the rhythm and the electrifying presence of glitch.
While Jourdain investigates the experimental spaces of electronic music, he does not forget where the foundations of the genre lie. Producing interpretations of techno music with his own brew of post-techno and dub techno notions, he unveils the excellent “Registrariat”. The monotonous beating of techno music meets with the droning background and the expressive sound design of Jourdain to create a sublime result, which gives rise to a blissful scenery. This perspective is also prevalent in “Bateau 1”, which is one of the catchier moments of the record featuring vocal samples that aid in its urgent rendition.
The interpretation of the field recordings through this impressive barrage of drones, glitch, noise and sound design make Transit feel like a work of sonic cubism. While the shapes and edges of the original structures are still present and the overall offering displays many qualities of electronic music, the result is one of true avant-garde expression. Jourdain performs an extravagant process of transformation, one that mutates and, to an extent, mutilates the qualities of the original recordings, in a most fascinating way.