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Christopher Bissonnette - Periphery

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Artist: Christopher Bissonnette

Album: Periphery

Label: Kranky

Review date: Sep. 15, 2005

It’s late at night, so switch off the lights and close your eyes. Christopher Bissonnette’s creations are audio narratives for the great dream screen in your mind. On opener “In Accordance,” submersibles send sonar pulses to the bottom of the ocean, where lies a shipwrecked piano exhaling its dying breath. The immense shadow of a great whale seems to envelop the whole scene, smothering the sound of seaweed-covered ivories, leaving in its wake the detritus of dark decaying drones and fractured voices. A similar story can be found within the parameters of each entry from this fine collection of piano and orchestral based compositions. This strong sense of image no doubt stems from Bissonnette’s background as a sound artist and graphic designer, skills honed during his time as founding member of Thinkbox, a new media collective formed in 1997 focused on the relationship between art and popular electronic music.

On Periphery, his first solo release, Bissonnette employs his self-developed system of isolating tiny fragments of sampled material to produce rich textural tapestries. Leaving traces of the original source all but unrecognizable, he still manages to retain their fundamental personality and nature. Audio patches within the software and the fact that each track is mixed and recorded live provides for a delicate balance between control and chaos, resulting in organic and sinuous artefacts.

“Comfortable Expectations” swirls around the ears as hypnotic church organ tones bubble under a blanket of hiss. Momentarily an angelic choir makes itself heard, introducing a sense of unease to the idyll. Bissonnette’s mastery of his material is everywhere in evidence. The album concludes as it began with the aquatic theme “Pellucidity” rolling in with the sound of tumbling static waves, and the reappearance of that shipwrecked piano, this time sending out a distress signal to anyone willing to listen. If there’s any justice left in this world, that piano will never be short of an audience.

By Spencer Grady

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