Review: Bio + Larkian + Les Poissons Autistes – S/T

Despite Switzerland-based three:four records referring to this as their first “totally Swiss” release, this collaboration was still constructed by remote file-swapping; fragments of tracks were sent back and forth to be re-shaped and expanded upon, circling between the individual studio environments of each contributor. So even if there’s a shared geography here (perhaps this contributes a certain “Swiss-ness” to the sound, though I wouldn’t know how to identify that), the process by which the release came together – not particular to a mutual space and time – still creates a sense of distance and separation.

That’s not to say it’s in any way incoherent. In fact, these three gel very effectively, throwing together various combinations of processed drones, tremolo guitar, muffled electronic beats and the vague remnants of woodwind and cello. Opener “Si J’étais Chez Vous, Je Partirais” is perhaps the strongest statement, permitted to soar as multi-texture tone clouds for brief stretches before being forcefully hauled back in by the bass frequency lurches beneath. Various tempos interact simultaneously, with notes rubbing together like tectonic plates, emphasising the isolation that causes each contributor to ultimately operate in his own individual sense of time and space.

But it’s essentially a central point from which the album needs to drift outwards. Hints of gloom and intensity bring promise of their expansion as the album progresses, and this opening piece works most prominently as implication: the first bubbles of disturbance that subside but feel destined to resurge. But it doesn’t quite happen. The album needs spontaneous interaction between its creators, which might have pushed the music into places that the excessive forethought of remote collaboration tends to banish. That of-the-moment spark is missing – the ability for the artists to goad eachother toward wilder outbursts that materialise before retrospect can rub them out. And so the swell of “L’éteignoir à Filles” feels too polite, mounting in texture and volume but not in intensity.

The collaboration works well when those steady, carefully placed steps feel more appropriate. “Le Garçon Qui Ferait Plaisir à Maman” retains just the minimum amount of rhythm required to keep the whole piece in unison, abiding softly by a slow tempo which announced itself on gentle electro-beat throbs, while a sense of unease slinks into those gaps of quiet between guitar strums, fading beneath a cello croaking out a solemn ostinato for one.

But it’s as though these artists have found a point of connection and burrowed into it rather than trying test the elasticity of its boundaries. There’s some good stuff here for sure, but it tends to take place when the atmosphere is deliberately static and ponderous, hovering over a particular point and never destined to venture further afield. It’s that hesitance and courteous reservation that stops the trio in their tracks upon any occasion that the album needs to build and grow; the players turn inwards rather than facing out, unwilling to burst open from their cocoon of calculated introspect.