Automatisme is the brainchild of Quebec-based producer William Jourdain, who keeps on producing awesome electronic music stuff since 2011. We managed to send him some questions related to his recent output Alter- (released by Mille Plateaux last spring), between the moment when this album inspired by Nicolas Bourriaud definition of Altermodernism was out and the moment when the forthcoming release by William – Terrain Reduction on G89 Records (out on 7th August 2020). Let’s check his answers and let’s get deeper into this interesting artist and his sound art.
Chain D.L.K.: Howdy William! How are you doing in these weird days for mankind?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: During March, April and May, I was a lucky person that kept its job at an indie record store by working exclusively in a warehouse listing used vinyl albums on Discogs. We reopened the physical store in late May. Meantime, I completed four new albums and multiple videos. I got deep into Jitter in Max Msp software an that is something I have wanted to do since 2014. I was only on the surface of that software two years ago. Currently, I do terrain modelization. In my personal life, I hung out with my wife, played Metal Gear Solid, and restarted to do street BMX haha! I look forward to seeing my family and friends on weekends, which is something that we can slowly restart to do.
Chain D.L.K.: One question that many people would have done to you.. why did you name your artistic ego as ‘Automatisme’? What’s the connection between the name and your artistic search?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: This is a reference to the Automatistes, a major modernist art movement from the Quebec province in Canada that started in the early 1940’s. They mainly did an abstract expressionist painting. They freed the visual arts of concrete object representation. They connected pure imagination to language and I find this kind of artistic freedom as a way of communication between myself and the computer to do electronic music and digital arts. It is hard for my computers to generate tracks because of the multiple exportations of the same composition that I do with a deep, pointillistic and extremely programmed patches. I am positioned in the heritage of the avant-garde in art and this project was born in 2011 with the desire to push the limits of new technologies in experimental electronic music.
Chain D.L.K.: I really enjoyed ‘Alter-‘, your latest album… but before extensively speaking of it, can you trace it back your previous workout by highlighting the ones that can be considered helpful to better appreciate ‘Alter-‘?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: The ” Rate ” album that I released in late 2019 is a 30 minute four track mini-album that can be a great introduction to Alter- album. It has the same concept of rate/scape by containing tracks that are exclusively rhythmic or ambient. That is easier to listen is its entirety to this album because it is short and it is less difficult to listen to it than it is for Alter- that is a 75 minute four sides album. My previous works were less minimalist than Alter- and Rate albums because they contained more audio layers and were maximalists like in Transit album for example. A great way to get into Alter- is to read the statement text that explains how the tracks are built to put constant proximity between rate tracks and scape tracks. Every side starts with rhythmic tracks and finishes smoothly with ambient tracks. That gives a good balance between the two m o o d s . S t a t e m e n t t e x t ( a t t h e b o t t o m o f t h i s p a g e ) :
Chain D.L.K.: ‘Alter-‘ is a reference to Altermodernism. Can you tell us something about the definition of this concept that you took from art historian Nicolas Bourriaud?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: Bourriaud understands the term “Alter” as a way to mean “other”. The altermodernism would be another modernity that is different from the avant-garde modernism and post-modernism. More precisely, that is a new paradigm from the XXIe century with alternative ways to motivate artists to be more radical in art by traveling in the physical and digital world, by cutting the frontiers and by creating other time lines. I apply the “alter” subject to time and to landscape and those, to the rhythmic and the ambient glitch music. An artist in contemporary art must continually question and answer what is its contemporary. Currently, we are witnessing the globalization and saturation of time and space and my intention is to influence listeners to take the time to listen in a large sense. This is not just for music, but that they take the time to listen to their surroundings. Alter- album have no field recordings, but the tracks sound is in between the actual concrete and digital landscapes and a non-representational soundscape. It lets the listener wonder about the natural and digital soundscapes hybrid synthesis. For Bourriaud, our relation to time is the most complex in history. Because of the accumulation of history and of time layers build like an archipelago, the artist could help with the use of topology to keep track of the multi-temporal universe. Alter- album is a try to make sound space apparent. This concept is pushed forward in my upcoming album and video project named Terrain Reduction out soon. For more informations about altermodernist themes (archive, borders, docu-fiction, energy, exiles, heterochronia, travel and viatorisation): http://www2.tate.org.uk/altermodern/explore.shtm
Chain D.L.K.: How does Altermodernism relate to your album?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: We live in a globalised and saturated time and I wanted to create an album in that ambiance. For Bourriaud, the artists respond to a new globalised perception. They traverse a cultural landscape saturated with signs and create new pathways between multiple formats of expressions and communications¹. The Alter- album tracks have saturated rhythms Rates and static ambient soundScapes. The specific context within which we live is the age of globalisation. In this album, it means that globalised or always evolving rhythm Rates are in constant movements and are also different every time an Alter-Rate track is exported or performed. On the other hand, a globalised landScape is an ambient track with a motionless temporality.
In the era of the altermodern, displacement has become a method of depiction². The movement of the sound in the Alter- album is two sound spaces. The first is the rhythms that make time movement become apparent and the second is an ambient paused or static time that makes it possible to feel and to analyze the movement effect of our surroundings. The art is always in a constant tension state. For Gilles Deleuze, art is in a constant state of tension, in as much as it oscillates between the poles of chaos and order³. The Alter- album is a tension between chaos and order in rhythmic beat tracks and ambient soundscapes tracks. It is a deterritorialization of the rhythms and the ambiances of today’s natural and digital landscapes and it brings them into the computer glitch music format. By pushing new software to their limits, I push at the extreme the software capacity to calculate and to generate sounds. The Alter-Rate tracks are experimentations with time rates and rhythms with the use of probability and artificial intelligence-based sequencers. The partition signal starts from a master sequencer that gets into all instruments on a track. Each instrument receives this signal and modulates it with other sequencers that are each programmed differently for every instrument. Finally, all the instrument signals return to a master output that contains a stutter effect. This master channel is sequencing all other channels into one single rhythm. In short, a single rate merges and expands into a vast archipelago of rates and the transformed signal becomes a new single rate. The Alter-Scape tracks are experimentations with midi triggers that give the sensation of timelessness. Multiple reverb effects are also routed into each other to create soundscapes of continuity. About the type of sounds created on this album, I do experimentations with deep frequency modulation synthesises (FM) on all Alter-Rate and Alter-Scape tracks. I put a few layers in the tracks to be able to focus on the time-space and perception. The tracks are generative and every parameter uses probabilities to be programmed. This is something that was not possible some years ago. Computers are enough powerful to generate that now. I export many times the tracks and I push the computers to their limits by making it hard for them to calculate and to generate the tracks with a deep, a pointillist and an extreme software programming. These techniques do different versions every time that I export or perform a track and in my opinion, that opens a fresh and innovative way to do new experimental club music and ambient music. The computer has its own limits too. The recent electronic music movement named Ultrablack of Music of Force Inc. / Mille Plateaux labels contains the altermodernism subject in their new material (a manifesto, a series of texts, compilations, and full-length albums) in which Alteralbum is a part of. Ultrablack music experiments with a nameless in-between and non-representation in which other temporalities can emerge. We encounter in the immense and uncontrollable sonic geologies and ecologies of ultrablack music an alien sonic vision. More information here: https://non.copyriot.com/cat/nonmusic/
Chain D.L.K.: Would you say that Altermodernism or any other derivation of such a framework is opposite to homologation that sadly seems to be the dominant key of contemporary languages, including art?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: Bourriaud is taking actual art to define the altermodernist genre, but altermodernist art it is not very widespread. The very principle of altermodernity is the opposite of the homologation of an artistic practice towards a style, a genre or a trend. Homologation generally comes when something gets mainstream and altermodernist art is currently a too recent genre to perceive that. The primacy of the visual art is always present and I respond to that by taking a theoretical framework and apply it to sound art.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you create this sort of double rail (a rhythmical and an a-rhythmical, to say so) to explore ‘alter’-ity?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: This is my first album without field recordings. The sound synthesis in Alter- album reprogram the peri-urban environment sound timbre, in which I live in, and restructure it in a new sound space with semi-generative music and experimental sound synthesis. The rhythmic tracks are named Alter-Rate. That means that I offer other types of rhythms by calculating beats with time rate experimentations. The form of the rhytmic tracks, expresses a course, a wandering, which, in the altermodern life, is not just in a standard 4/4 , or just grid based or non-grid based, but it’s in a complex hybrid of all of those. The ambient tracks are named Alter-Scape. That means that I offer another type of landScapes by a paused temporality and not by a random time or by the time of nature. Alter-Scape tracks mimic the saturated globalized soundscapes of the XXIe century.
Chain D.L.K.: Some melodic element or percussive elements seem to recur and reappear in different shapes or combinations… does such a choice have a meaning?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: In this album, I push forward the sequencers and modulations to create an altermodern time-space and I made variations of similar instrumental themes. After I finished a track of the album in the studio, I wanted to reinterpret it in another temporal space and this is why I created a new track recalling some elements and added new sound experiments. Many albums that influence me have a reduced palette of elements and exploit them enormously, which allows us to perceive sounds in several aspects. In my opinion, the opposite situation is confusing because when too many elements are present, the layers finesse tends to disappear. I like to take a production method associated with a genre and bring it to another kind of music. The dub techno music uses the reappearance of melodic or percussive elements in different shapes and combinations. In that aspect, Chain Reaction and Echospace (Detroit) labels influence me a lot. We could say that a part of what I do is glitch music with dub techno and semi-generative approaches.
Chain D.L.K.: Is ‘Alter-‘ going to stay at a sonic level only or are you planning any crossbreeding with other forms of art?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: After I finished the audio of the album in late 2019, I contacted the artist Stefan Paulhus, who is doing visual art for Force Inc. / Mille Plateaux label, to do two videos for the Alter- album. He creates videos about the wandering and monumentality of urban and rural landscapes. The theme of his works is “psychogeography” which is inspired by the theories of Guy Debord⁴. His art shows the paradoxes that reside in the differences and the power of urban and rural landscapes. He shows the environmental difficulties of sharing in a healthy and ecological way the spaces taken by those two types of environments. The two videos that he did for Alteralbum show that it is not clear where we are heading with the evolution of the constructed landscapes and of the natural landscapes. The second kind is essential to be conserved. Like the philosopher and teacher, Fredric Neyrat said in the Ultrablack Of Music book: ”The most successful way for electronic music to catch the world’s alienness is when reinventing the relation between materiality and the immaterial, the concrete and the abstract, and also between the terrestrial and the extra-terrestrial dimension, what sounds to be here and what seems to be there”.
Here are the links to the two videos :
– Alter-Rate 7 : Urban footage in various European metropolises.
– Alter-Scape 3 : Rural footage in various Europe mountains and forests.
Chain D.L.K.: Ambient tracks reminded some act of concept sound arts by labels such as scape. Any cross-reference to other past works by other artists/labels?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: I listened a lot to Mark Fell and Fluxion music when I produced this album. I also have a lot of Scape records albums at home. Of course, that is my daily life soundtrack. That said, the Alter-Scape tracks are not a reference to Scape label, but to the ”landscape” and ”soundscape” words. I am inspired by the theory of Raymond Murray Schaffer the inventor of the soundscape term in the seventies and I want to document the altermodern world. The phonographic documentation is a practice which dates from the XXth century and it is particularly present since the 1970’s. A major phenomenon contributing to this is the Canadian composer, theorist and educator Raymond Murray Schaffer, who published in 1977 The Tuning of the World (The Soundscape), a book on acoustic ecology and the first theorization of the landscape as sound architecture. Based on the concept of the visual landscape, he defined the concept of sound landscape. Schaffer’s primary objective was to document different soundscapes in familiar places. Despite this very large mandate, Schaffer’s work is guided by a quest for harmony which he defines as the possibility to hear the sound of silence in modern society. Since then, several theorists and artists have tried to develop Schaffer’s theories. The rhythms and soundscapes of Alter- album are a digital art interpretation of the altermodernity environment. The Alter- album contains similar sound timbre of classic clicks & cuts music of Mille Plateaux, but is structured in a whole other (alter) non-linear temporal space.
Chain D.L.K.: Speaking of the inspirational infusion that music like the one in ‘Alter-‘ can cause, what are the thoughts or images that you hope to inspire into listeners throughout the listening of ‘Alter-‘ or your music in general?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: The thoughts or images that I hope to inspire into listeners throughout the listening of my music varies. It is always related to the video works that is based on field recordings or digital sound space that I create. I publish two videos per albums in general and they are all available on YouTube.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the worst compliment and the best critics you received for you sound art?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: The best critics are always from Boomkat. They compare my sound art to artists that I am a fan, and they highlight the innovations that I try to do. In general, the reviews of record stores are the best. Working myself at an indie record for 10 years now, I think that this job makes the staff develops a balance between intellectualism and feeling about music in a large spectrum from sound art to folk songwriters. The worst compliments that I get are all reviews that only describe the style and the feeling of the album track by track without making a link to art history, theory, and philosophy. Without those three elements, sound art is nothing but interchangeable light entertainment Muzak or something without contextualization that sounds like many other releases.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
William Jourdain aka Automatisme: I have a new album named Terrain Reduction and some videos for the tracks that will be released late July. This is a balance between the ambient-dub of Transit album and clicks & cuts of Alter- album. The details will be available from the labels soon. Also, I will release at the end of the summer my second collaborative album with famous drone producer Thisquietarmy. This one will be really much soft, but also very harsh! We are really proud to release that on a label from the U.S. that we are great fans of. Then, my first album under a techno/ambient-techno collaboration with Beyond Humans will be out this year too. I do this project alongside personal friends from Chile. In 2021, the following album to Momentform Accumulation and Transit will be released on Constellation Records. The albums that I release with them are always somber, textured and expressive. Another goal that I have is to continue to push forward Jitter in Max Msp to create complex landscapes. Finally, on the really long term project, I have started a collaboration of werehouse music with somebody that I can’t mention for the moment.