Forming in Brooklyn in 1995 as a collective based around abstract sound, Pas Musique translates to “Not Music” in French, a fact which gives some indication of what the adventurous listener is in store for on limited 2015 release Inside the Spectrum. That being said, much of what is contained in the wild, ten-track album is actually quite musical, though it goes well beyond what the vast majority of listeners might be familiar with. Perhaps the best way to describe this album would be to label it as sound collage: throughout Spectrum, wispy melodies are heard alongside pulsating electronic beats and an unrelenting swirl of weird sounds. Vocals of the almost inconsequential variety pop up intermittently to create an even more bizarre, some might even say unsettling atmosphere, but the album has an undeniably hypnotic aspect to it, positively tailor-made to inspire the subconscious.
The opening title track reminds me in some ways of Underworld's memorably dreamy “Little Fluffy Clouds” for its use of spoken word female vocals that swirl in and out of focus. That's about where the similarities stop though: while the Underworld track played as appealing ambient electronica, Pas Musique's piece incorporates rather harsh percussion along with droning bagpipes and hazy sonic texturing. Despite its more aggressive sounds though, this opener is strangely soothing, with the subsequent “Listening to InterStellar Space” walking a similar tightrope between being calm and vaguely unnerving. Here, chattering synthesizer tones and distorted guitars sound out over crisp electronic beats, the ingredients repeating and slightly evolving over the track's duration.
Arguably more influenced by '90s electronica and trance, “The Soul Catcher” makes use of a looping bass drop and more quiet, thumping rhythms before woozy melody and a whipping high-pitched sound effect surface. As suggested by its title, “Ancient Evil Aliens” has a noticeably stranger sound to it, with hollow bass heard over a clopping rhythm and sometimes whooping, sometimes droning ambiance and “First Breath of Speeding Light” builds into a seething track in which creaking melodies and chiming discordant tones surround and occasionally overpower the whirring, almost industrial underlying sonic base. Following the stellar “Mindless Mechanics” and somewhat grimy and slimy “Molecular Vibration,” the album hits one of its noisiest patches in “Blue Lotus Ritual.” This very mechanical and ominous track leads into the clanking “Cerebral Vacuum,” but warmer sonic elements are injected to provide a glimmer of hope in the midst of all the near-chaos. It's fitting that the album ends on an almost transcendental note: “Transference” is a comparatively brighter track built around wordless vocals, bubbling electronics, and fuzzy melodies, with barely audible dialogue samples fully integrated into the soundscape.
Pas Musique's free-flowing output may not be for everyone (which the group seems to realize considering this album's limited, 300 piece run), but it's a refreshing change of pace from typical 2015 electronica in which artists are frequently content to latch onto a groove and repeat it into infinity. Though Inside the Spectrum too is repetitive in a way, I feel as though the tracks play out in a manner that resembles the way in which dreams slowly and almost imperceptibly evolve. There's an appealing if appropriately bizarre flow to everything, and it would be difficult for me to call this anything less than effective sound art.
8.0 / 10
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