Joni Void's 'Mise En Abyme' Is a Shattering Reflection of the Self

Photo: Thomas Boucher and Sonya Stefan / Constellation Records

On Joni Void's second full-length Mise En Abyme, plunderphonic electronica is not only a technique for sound construction but also a deconstructive method for shattering and reordering the self.

Mise En Abyme
Joni Void


29 March 2019

Mise en abyme, French for "placed into the abyss", refers to the "aesthetic technique of putting a copy within the work itself, a story within a story". In reality, it is the optical phenomenon that occurs when one stands in between two mirrors, reflecting the self infinitely. In art, it is the aesthetic framing of recursive sounds, images, narratives, and concepts. In either application, the infinite reflections offer a sense of understanding, projecting copies that seem to become more familiar with each iteration. Yet, ultimately, the copies are just that. The real moment of introspection comes not with each reflection but when the image wholly disappears into the abyss, shattering the symbolic self to only leave the true Self.

For Jean Cousin, aka Joni Void, his second full-length Mise En Abyme works toward the cathartic abyss. Navigating his "self-professed body/voice dysmorphia", the application of plunderphonic electronica is not only a technique for sound construction but also a deconstructive method for shattering and reordering the Self.

Plunderphonics is the technique of rearranging pre-existing sounds into new compositions. In contrast to the ambiguous arrangements of sound collage, plunderphonics typically employ tropes of other conventional genres. However, for Cousin, the distinction between plunderphonics and sound collages is purely a suggestion, something to be tested.

Indeed, on songs such as "Abusers", found bleeps emulate sine waves and clattering tools become drums. Yet, on "No Reply", the modulated dial tones and static pops veer away from their obvious possibility for creating a plunderphonic beat. Rather, the telephony signals incrementally collapse into a dizzying, tropeless arrangement. In the optical phenomenon of mise an abyme, reflections become ever more recursive; on the album Mise En Abyme, reflections become ever more distorted. Perhaps, the lack of clear reflections and the intensity of compositional distortions imitate the experience of body/voice dysmorphia.

Accordingly, on Mise En Abyme, this sense of distortion heightens with every song. And, on "Voix Sans Issue", the developing anxiety fully surfaces. The tensive sentiments that lurked the prior compositions are now in focus, beginning with an ever-mounting wave of vocal crescendos. Each layer adds weight, and each disharmony adds tension. The wave descends shortly, only to re-ascend with a menacing beat. The song ends in a shattering, releasing the album's surmounting tensions, at least for the moment.

The shattering, "Deep Impression" uncovers the Self, but not for the listeners. The computerized voice offers a deft list of illusory forces that structure the void, from the violence of language and its binary oppositions to intergenerational trauma. Its reflections are conscious. "Isolation is my personal solution"; its reflections are candid "not a single day without suicidal ideation". Yet, these words hold deeper truths that are not meant for us to unpack. The purpose of Mise En Abyme, then, is somewhat contextualized but ultimately remains vague. Cousin expresses, "It took 20 years and a thousand deaths to write these lyrics / I don't have time for you critics / Whatever you think of this song / It's absolutely wrong." Thus, let's not take this review as anything more than a suggestion to go listen to Jean Cousin's life's project.





Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.


'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.


2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.


'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.


Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.


Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.


Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.


Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.


12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.