TRACK: Olivier Alary & Johannes Malfatti – ‘Drifting’: out-classical, ISDN warmth

MONTREAL-based, Toulousain composer Olivier Alary and his Berlin-based compatriot Johannes Malfatti have been friends for many years – that kind of relationship so much easier to conduct in our modern fibre-optic world.

With an album apiece under their belts: Johannes’ Surge for Glacial Movements, and Olivier’s 2016 debut for FatCat’s 130701 imprint, Fiction/Non-Fiction, it became obvious that the pair, deeply involved in the creation of music as they are, would move towards a collaboration. ISDN is part of our world, as is Skype. We can do this in real time now.

Long had they dreamed of a virtual studio, some recording space that existed at either terminal node and simultaneously out there in the 4,000-plus miles in between.

As what is technically termed VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) apps became available – Skype and the like – the two would get ‘together’ to bounce ideas. Though it was frustrating: a recording of beautiful fidelity in Berlin would arrive in Canada corrupted and bowdlerised, and vice-versa. They began archiving them as a shared source of amusement.

Until they realised: they had stumbled upon that studio. The apps themselves were working as effects loops, rendering sonic change.

Olivier notes: “The first recordings we made were so unrecognizable from the original sources that they seemed to spontaneously emerge from the void. Even instantly recognizable sounds such as piano, voice or organ had lost all original characteristics.

“We were using the VOIP applications like a plug-in, altering the sound by transmitting it across continents, through countless servers and undersea cables.” 

Further control systems were created: feedback delays, bandwidth funnelling, experimenting with the different qualities of each VOIP.

And the result is the pair’s u,i album, which 130701 will release on September 25th. You can hear a teaser for the album below: the otherly beauty of “Drifting”.

An almost aquatic swathe of sonic corruption plays across a discorporeal, captured voice, out there beaming through the ether; strings interject delicately. It’s both eerie and utterly human; disconnected, caught mid-transmission and a warm reminder that life is always being lived somewhere.

It’s a stunning little taster for the album, which we’ve been living inside here at Backseat Mafia for a little while now, and which, peeking into our forthcoming review ledger, we note as creating “an odyssey into the fragile, global communicative state, fusing found sound, drone and chamber instrumentation. Salutary and necessary,” Our full review will be published on or about September 20th.

Olivier Alary and Johannes Malfatti’s u,i will be released by 130701 on September 25th on two digital formats; a strictly limited vinyl pressing will follow about a month afterwards, the vagaries of the coronavirus having intervened with pressing schedules. Order your copy here.

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