I imagine Giuseppe Ielasi in Aix-en-Province, holed up in a mostly-empty loft, surrounded by musical and potentially musical paraphernalia. Sitting inside his toy block castle, tape rolling, he pours water into cups, zips up zippers, sprays aerosol cans, and cracks billiard balls together. He captures the sounds of collision and its resultant echoes, and once his accumulation is sufficient, he scrambles it. The product is a kind of modern musique-concrete—sounds individually identify themselves while interlocking to form a larger musical whole. But Aix, distilled through a minimalist-techno apparatus, avoids musique-concrete’s typical harshness. Rough edges are sanded and glossed into geometric shapes. Rhythms form organically from the accretion of sound in an atmosphere that borrows equally between jazz and downtempo. Traditional instruments attend, though they usually arrive warped barely within recognition.
Although these tracks are labeled only by number, they remain distinct parts of a cohesive collection. The opening track introduces itself with a clear but rhythmically uncertain bass note (a good sound system is crucial for full effect) that alternates with the upper registers where objects interact and reverberate in wide space. After almost two minutes a droning organ declares the track’s intent—it’s a song after all, and the mass of disparate sounds suddenly resolve into something clearer, the meter for a melody. “02” is even sparser, where a violently plucked string keeps time against incoming zippers, exhausted aerosol cans and stuttering reverse-piano stabs. Perhaps more so than any other, the third track, “03,” achieves a delicate balance between the pleasures of unfamiliar but richly-recorded percussion and the tension Ielasi expertly sustains and releases by adding and removing certain instruments at just the right moments. A slight relief from Aix‘s challenging rhythms comes from two quieter sections: “04” with its alien landscape of clicks and wispy drones, and “07,” which plays like a stroll through a deserted shopping mall. The final track reinforces Aix‘s jazz affiliation through a sampled upright bass that ends the album—after only a brisk 31 minutes—on a thoughtful, melancholic note.
Aix‘s success as an album lies in the way in which Ielasi takes a potentially sterile process and imbues it with emotion, obscuring its calculative essence. And yet, Aix‘s mathematical underpinnings are crucial to its appeal—they structure the music and chart the album’s satisfying course. For the listener attuned to Ielasi’s unique musical aesthetic, Aix embodies tone and time, working together in irresistible harmony.