Do you ever have those really strange dreams where you wake up from them and you still hear noise ringing in your ear from it? Like, you can’t quite recall what just went down in your subconscious but you know something big did. You can recall colors, places familiar but where you’ve never stepped foot in your waking life? And sounds. Sounds that surround you in the daytime(cars driving by your house, a dog barking in the distance, maybe a conversation happening in another room of the house) suddenly become these foreign noises that pierce your ears and enter your head as something completely alien. Something as pedestrian as papers being shuffled suddenly -in the dream realm- become a flock of flaming purple birds flying off into the double horizon where the distant four moons of Tralfamadore sit. Well, what I’m getting at here is that Daniel Wohl’s Corps Exquis is a record that creates soundscapes that form strange visions in your head as your hear them. You are lulled, slapped, shaken, moved, repulsed, and mesmerized by the sounds on this exquisite piece of avante garde modern classical collection of ‘dream suites’, as I like to call them. Flaming purple birds aren’t required to enjoy, but they help.
“Neighborhood” opens the record with a mix of trepidation and wonder. It’s as if someone is looking at dark, ominous clouds swirling overhead but there’s a hint of blue far off in the distance. There seems to be a mix of digital aural trickery and sounds from the acoustical realm as well. Swirls and hisses mixed with clicks, clacks, and tremolo strings that come in and out of the mix like rays of sun coming through the dirge of dense, hazy sound. “323” is a blast of exuberance. Hints of the orient in the percussion and lilting strings. It’s a taste of the far east, as if someone dreaming of the orient that’s never known a thing about it. Very much a song, rather than a collection of noise. Just as the rays of light begin to fade, we are brought into the darkness of “Cantus”. This is a brooding piece of music. Starting out with notes hanging in the air like fireflies shimmering in a darkened forest, the mood darkens as the piece moves on. It’s like a brass section that is slowly being devoured by a demonic string quartet before the piece explodes into a wailing cacophony of flaming purple birds(yeah, I like those birds). This is truly an unsettling piece of music.
Songs like “Ouverture”, “Plus ou moins”, and “Limbs” mix the playful with the unsettling. An eerie piano line resonates with a bouncing, floating bassoon as strings pop in and out on “Plus ou moins” as if Wohl isn’t sure where he wants the piece to take the listener. It’s really quite a feat what he does, taking the digital world and traditional classic world and blending them into a concoction of modern classical, ambient noise, and dream-like soundscapes. The final song, “Corpus”, is mournful strings that open up into something hopeful as chiming bells and piano come in. This is chamber music to accompany you to the other side, or to another existence. The next phase.
Daniel Wohl -along with help from Aaron Roche and Julia Shammas Holter-has created something completely unique. It’s a soundtrack to a fever dream, or a night terror. It’s accompaniment to an existential play that was dictated to you by the voices in your head. It’s calming and discerning at the same time.
It’s the flaming purple birds cawing “nevermore”.