From the off, it’s clear that Renaud Gabriel Pion’s dual role as classically-trained pianist and electronic producer is going to make this an unusual release. Despite being the work of one man, the steady pull of the clarinet towards jazz while the electronic work pulls towards glitch and abstraction is at the core of the album’s friction. But it’s a friction that gives energy, rather than stress, as evidenced beautifully in the upbeat opener “Zeitgeist”.
At times the see-saw swings more to one side, sucha s in the beautiful layered second half of “Russian” which gives us a dubsteppy wub-wub sound playing deferentially quietly under multi-tracked rich clarinet tones. In return, there are points in pieces like “Lush” or the decidedly trip-hoppy “Katana 2” where the clarinet takes a breather (but not for long) to let the intricate and detailed click rhythms and synthetic pad work come to the fore.
“Radiance” features the soft, fragile vocals of Big Sir’s Lisa Papineau. It’s a standout track, not just for that reason but for the richness of expression throughout. Fans of Submotion Orchestra should absolutely connect with this, and I hope it has some broadcast success that draws people in to hear and appreciate the instrumental work.
It’s mostly fairly punchy stuff, bordering on frantic in the rhythm department occasionally, though there is a nicely timed mid-album lull in “Cyborg” where the sounds get a little darker and more expansive, before opening up to a new dawn in “Tala” and beyond. Examples from the international rhythm flavours in “Bunraku” to the electro bass of “Neo-Tokyo” emphasise the diversity of elements being called on.
Across thirteen fairly short pieces, the electronica here is not revolutionary or ground-breaking. But the fusion between the electronica and the earthy expressive tones of a clarinet (which as previously documented is an instrument I’ve got a serious soft spot for) is handled absolutely beautifully here, and it’s that richness that genuinely makes this one of the most striking and attention-grabbing albums I’ve heard this year so far.