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Crystal sound project - Confronting silence

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

The collective known as the Crystal sound project was formed in Paris, France in 2017 and has just released a new project entitled Confronting silence. Not tied simply to music, the group is described as a “nomad” that combines porcelain sculptures, electroacoustic music and multiple languages, cultures and genres in its work, intending to “reunite the civilizations.”

The project had a long-term residency from 2018 to 2019 at the Cité Internationale Des Arts, after which the group chose a new direction: freely improvising lyrics and music and thus confronting the whole ensemble with spontaneous and unknown musical ideas. The Confronting silence tracks were born during this experimental period, with contributions from an international array of musicians. The title of the album was inspired by the personal diaries of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, reflecting upon his concept of confronting sound and silence in search of a perfect balance.

The main performers within this new work are: Aida Nosrat (vocal/violin), Artem Naumenko (flute), Bilyana Furnadzhieva (singing bowls/electronics), Lea Lu (vocal/chênecelaine) and Viktor Benev (singing drums/piano/electronics). Among most of these familiar instruments, the chênecelaine is a six-string instrument made out of oak wood and a porcelain bowl, serving as a resonance box. Production, recording and mixing were by Viktor Benev, with mastering by Nicolas Baillard at fraiseraie électrique. A clear champagne-colored vinyl edition is available.

“Confronting silence part I” starts with what sounds like snake rattles, which becomes the percussive base for at least the first part of the track. Quiet, measured piano from the Brian Eno ambient school plays atop the shakers, interspersed with breathy bursts of flute and picked violin. Aida Nosrat’s lovely vocals interact beautifully with the piano and flute. Though this music was recorded in a studio and has stellar quality, there’s something about the sound that makes me imagine a recording on a desert plain at night (and in fact I kept checking the liner notes to be sure!). The tiny bells and other percussive touches are also very beautiful and trance-inducing. Though I doubt this music is totally improvised, it does feel as if the players began with simple fragments and built from there in live performance.

Halfway through the piece, the arrangement shifts, signaled by bass-like notes and what sounds like wind chimes and marimba-like percussion. This section is a bit more soothing and almost like a song, and even more deeply hypnotic.

“Contronting silence part II” is superficially like part I, but only half as long. The same instruments return (plus some carefully controlled feedback and a constant, pleasing low tone). While the first track felt very organic, this one has a bit more of an electronic, studio magic vibe. This isn’t due to excessive (or any) studio trickery; it feels mostly like the ensemble can conjure these sounds and moods at will with the tools at hand. The female vocals are a bit more free and experimental as well, sometimes crossing into Yoko territory. But the music never gets too harsh and drifts to a close without undue fuss.

“The moon song” concludes the trilogy with another ten-minute performance, starting with what sounds like strings being slowly scraped or a similar sound created electronically. The vocal is a surprise as it somewhat recalls “The Look Of Love” by Dusty Springfield (weird in this context, I know!). As with the previous tracks, the vocalist has a kind of gentle dialogue with the other instruments, specifically the chênecelaine (I think!). The piano adds a classical flavor in and around the left hemisphere.

This kind of music may seem challenging but given the proper mood and setting it can be intriguing, enticing or just relaxing. Give it a try!

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