Lille born, now Montreal resident, music collagist and producer Jean Cousin (aka Joni Void) is an illusive, transitory artist who over the years has blurred the sense of persona in any music that bears his pseudonym. Feeding voraciously into the Soundcloud/Bandcamp eco-system since 2011 as johnny ripper, he has revealed a plethora of digital releases that shifted form Satie/Glass cinematic dream works to more electronic montages of pilfered material. His indie world parallel could be Sandy Alex G except for Cousin/Joni Void ‘making it’ seems to be an incidental thought.
Increasingly his mission has been to remove the self from his music making, assembling ‘tunes’ exclusively from found sources and disconnecting from the role of ‘playing’ on his own compositions. His debut physical release in 2017 via the majestic Constellation was neatly titled ‘Selfless’ while 2019’s follow up ‘Mise En Abyme’ saw Joni Void fully ensconced in the role of constructor/assembler, taking an ephemeral clutter of recordings from phones, messages, cameras and films to make a disconcerting mix of unknown voices and more familiar beats.
Now comes his third record for Constellation, ‘Everyday Is The Song’ which pushes the Joni Void modus to capture something more personal and maybe biographical, based as it is on archived snippets saved from his lost Walkman. So while Cousin remains resolute as the director not the actor here, each piece evolving from a melange of ‘field’ recordings from the city streets, recorded incidents at jams and shows plus archly niche samples, you feel the results may be revealing something of himself to himself. At times the songs are unusually moving or unexplainably powerful, then at others tensely disorientating or distant. One thing is certain though, peering into Joni Void’s sound world is never dull.
Tape is the song that sets the context gently with its bubbly Four Tet innocence, playful DIY loops and an easy going Cornershop shuffle. ‘Am I you or are you me?’ gets asked early on, a question that hovers over the album as it unravels. At times it feels like you can pin the ambient electronica tag onto ‘Everyday Is The Song’, but foisting that identity on Joni Void’s work is a lazy pretence. The pastoral new age chime of In Between Moments reverberates around snatches of spoken word from seminal sixties avant film-maker Maya Deren but there’s a persistent everyday realism here, brought about by the tramline clangs, park life bird song and sidewalk chatter. Present Day Montage delivers similar deception, a loop of earthy chapel organ gets repurposed with haunted vocal layers before easing into an unexpected trip-hop chug.
There continues to be some tangible musical reference points in Joni Void’s multi- dimensional detailing on ‘Everyday Is The Song’. Barr Brothers compatriot and prime exponent of the harp’s experimental potential Sarah Page is a source that Cousin often returns to for those more fluid toned shadings. The strummed suspension of Still Life squeezes a revolving drone and Page’s cooing vocal into a brief ripple of incidental Owen Pallett acoustic plucking ahead of a mysterious, clipped r n b coda. You see things are never predictable on this album, there might be moments of considered playfulness but the prospect of darkness still seeps into the fabric. Non Locally, a post rock processional of shuddering chords, gradual interference, protest chants and ticking melodicism expands with a Basinski-esque abandonment. Similarly Void’s sample of Nennen’s slow core that feeds Negative Loop shudders with a dark-wave intensity dragged deeper by Shota Yokose’s monotone bass.
Perhaps even more than with previous work the sound art of ‘Everyday Is The Song’ feels openly reflective and less frenetic. Yes there are moments of hard wired experimentalism on the album (check in with Vortex Any% Speedrun or World Spinning At 33rpm) but primarily Void’s sketches this time around lean towards song form and connection. The soft pulsing Parallax Error has the voice at the centre, featuring loops from leftfield singer N NAO braided with Sarah Page’s informal pitch, while the glitchy Event Horizon twists the vocal material around its interrupted beats. A strength in all these pieces is the variation in mood that Joni Void conjures up within and throughout the whole cycle. At one point you are fathoming the tentative, spooked insecurity of Disposable, then by the close you get drawn into the warmly tuneful, upbeat hip hop of Post Credits Scene. It’s a fitting final song that touches on conversation and community before concluding with the observation ‘That was so much fun…’
Uncannily that’s exactly the feeling you are left with after passing through ‘Everyday Is The Song‘. Joni Void’s bric-a-brac montage of ordinary life and sounds brings some hope despite the real difficulties. He’s presenting a scrambled experience of the world, where reality and the virtual blur, while at the same time showing that something meaningful can be made from it, however small, however apparently insignificant.
Get your copy of ‘Everyday Is The Song’ by Joni Void from your local record store or direct from Constellation