Review: France Jobin - Valence

Working exclusively with processed field recordings taken from across North America and Europe, Jobin’s conscious mind dances cautiously with her source material; she is compelled by its potential significance but reluctant to unveil its mystique by sparing it too much thought. As she states herself: there is a likelihood of finding a certain emotion in a piece, but it is not guaranteed, nor do I know exactly when or where I will find it. The act of looking for that emotion in of itself will distort it. Although one would think experimental music grants complete freedom, when composing, I feel constrained by both my mental state and the way in which I build the piece.”

There is therefore a paradoxically heavy tension present within the practically weightless ambience. Jobin wrestles with her own curiosity, letting impulse prise the reins from the heavy steering and assertion of rational thought and letting the decision-making process flow as it will. Each of the three pieces goes through a most delicate evolution, guided gently between harmonies and into higher volumes by intricate tilts of axis. Comparisons are understandably drawn with the microscopic drone modulations of Eliane Radigue, with Jobin’s music carrying a similar attentiveness to the tiniest details; gaseous sonic emissions mutate at an imperceptibly slow speed, drawing both composer and listener into a micro-world of heightened focus.

Despite originating from the recordings of actual spaces, attributing Valence to a particular type of landscape is difficult. The gentle flickers of drone feels as though they’re drifting around the perimeter of a space in nature – perhaps a large open field or desolate green forest – yet those occasional beeps of ultra-high frequency reside outside of an organic frequency spectrum, tugging the mental visuals toward the realms of artificial machinery and laboratory electronics. But just as Jobin avoids trying to excavate the “meaning” within her work, it’s perhaps wise for the recipient to question the music with care; the ethereal, intangible beauty of Valence is brittle and always ready to unravel at the hands of any heavy-handed attempt to decipher its implications.