Bérangère Maximin Frozen Refrains

[Atlas Realisations; 2017]

Styles: musique concrète, electroacoustic
Others: Fred Frith, John Zorn, Fennesz

A few months ago, I was totally blissed out in the train station, toggling around on my phone, scrolling for nothing and nobody. Drag up, side swipe, drop down. The same five apps in a cyclic sort of motion, as though something on that screen was gonna change. Waiting for one of those trains that might never come at all, my mind had drifted beyond indifference into a stupefied habit-state in which I actually preferred that the train wasn’t coming. Better just to stand there, emotionless, more time for me to scroll, my neck bent over like I was fucking praying. But something shook me out of it; into the top right corner of my phone frame, creeping into its tiny glow, came a metal tip of something from beyond. It moved up and down, like a sign or arrow. My gaze followed the tip outside the screen to its owner, the person standing near me holding it, a purple umbrella that they waved at me. Our eyes locked and they stared at me, tipping their head to one side, concerned. Come back to us, they seemed to say.

This ecstatic intrusion on my dumb grind was later brought to my memory by some of the most distinctive music I’ve heard in a while, sound artist Bérangère Maximin’s fifth full-length, Frozen Refrains, which gave me that same feeling of climbing out of an egg. Her abstract, intriguing music’s various pulsations, assemblages, and dead-ends made me think of the purple umbrella, but also many other mental pictures in my imagination, both magnificent and mundane: gestures toward divination (the midpoint of “Wax Melody,” like nothing I’ve heard), something like a funk band playing on an undersea stage with a dilapidated foundation (“Burn and Return”), or just an old memory of me watching sci-fi with a friend (on “Sky Contraction,” the sounds of us speeding toward another planet). I never understood the show we watched together, but they did, and I liked to watch them watching it.

These surreal sounds bring up distant insights, drawing attention to the direction others pull our feeling in, what Anna Balakian calls “the magnetism of love rather than the portrait of the beloved.” Like love, music reveals the mundane and gives us something better to do. Come back to us, Maximin’s work says, this is where the world is.

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