VA: BiP_HOp Generation 7

Following a prolonged absence, Phillippe Petit's BiP_HOp Generation project returns with the first volume in a new series, the first collection having ended at volume six. Given the break, one might have expected some significant change, conceptual or otherwise, from the first series but in fact there's little different save the more minimalistic packaging design. As in the past, six or seven artists appear, a mixture of the familiar and the lesser-known, with each allocated ten minutes, and the generous offerings topping out at just under eighty minutes. This time around, Emisor, Fonica, Fm3, and Ghislain Poirier are bookended by the more established Taylor Deupree and Janek Schaefer, but all make credible contributions.

12k label head Taylor Deupree opens the set with three tracks, all in his customary tactile, textural style. His music is typically labeled minimal but, at least in this case, that seems both inaccurate and inadequate as the tracks exhibit a perpetual restlessness and even (in “Street/Light”) aggressiveness. Certainly the crackles bursting atop the blurry, wavering drone in the meditative “Slow” suggest that the microsound label is ill-applied here. Argentinean Emisor (Leonardo Ramella) is up next and, of the six artists featured, his pieces are the most conventionally structured. In all cases, fuzzy bass patterns establish a stable, often lurching base while flurries of activity appear above, panning seething wipes and descending percussive rolls in “Querer Libera” and static stutter and skitter in “Bordando.” The next two contributors hail from Japan and China respectively. Fonica (Kelichi Sugimoto and Cheason from Tokyo ) contributes the 12k-like composition “Scoot,” a slow, meditative piece of icy tones, pinging burbles, and ambient chords that builds in density and volume over the course of its twelve minutes. By comparison, Fm3, a Beijing-based collective of computer and classical musicians fronted by Christiaan Virant, integrates traditional Chinese instruments into meditative soundscapes, and thereby creates music that's more directly associative with its members' homeland. While the group's two pieces represent its recording debut, they're also—mysterious, portentous, mystical, and unsettling—the strongest of the collection. In “,” moody strums and extended Doppler tones emerge through a dense cloud as the sharp plucks of a Chinese stringed instrument, perhaps a pipa, slice through the fog. “Zheng” begins with the looped rhythm of crackle, the needle loudly gouging into the vinyl surface, while a pipa moodily strums and plucked tones count time metronomically. We visit Montreal next for three pieces from Ghislain Poirier, known for album releases on 12k, Chocolate Industries, and intr_version. His lovely “Caresser un cercle” features melancholy organ melodies accompanied by laconic hip-hop-inflected beats, while a male voice provides sensual French recitation over an ambient collage of rain showers, rumbles, and animal croaks in “La danse du plaisir.” Assembled from sounds collected in six cities over six months, “Vasulka Vauban's ‘A Day in the Good Life'” by Janek Schaefer ends the disc in fine fashion. Beginning with a cacophony of vehicle and other assorted noises, the piece momentarily quietens before building again until its industrial array of vinyl crackle, storm sounds, and electrical wire drones segues into a uniform, surging mass of ruffling clatter and thrum before ending with soft rumbles.

Aside from the packaging design, is there anything else that differentiates volume seven from its predecessors? Not a lot, aside from the obvious stylistic differences associated with the artists, although the latest installment does tend to hew slightly more to a style of meditative minimalism whereas each in the first series includes marked contrasts in artists' styles. Volume one, for example, ranges between Marumari's melodic electropop, Goem's minimal drones, and Phonem's distinctive beat patterns. In light of that precedent, more contrast could have been introduced had Poirier's tracks been more in the hip-hop, French rap-flavoured style of 2003's Conflits. But noting the presence of a more unified overall sound amounts to an observation in this case rather than a criticism. Volume seven's modicum of surprises is ably compensated for by its musical satisfactions.

August 2004