Friday, 15 September 2017

Hugues Dufourt - Saturne / Surgir (1993 compi, rec. '80 and '85)

As the Cassini spacecraft makes its final descent into Saturn's atmosphere, what better music to celebrate its voyage with?  Well, maybe Holst's Saturn, a classic seven minutes of grand old melancholy in its own right; but I'm going to go for 43 minutes of epic, electronically-inflected orchestral atmospherics courtesy of Dufourt (b. 1943 in Lyon).

One of the co-founders (who included Murail and Grisey) of the French-spectralism-focused Ensemble l’Itinéraire, Dufourt wrote Saturne for them in 1978-9.  It was also the time of the launch of his own Instrumental Research and Sound Synthesis Group (CRISS), which gives a clue to the content of this masterpiece.  Eerie orchestral swells and bell-like percussion are swathed in gaseous synthesiser swishes from the beginning, evoking the descent through Saturn's outer atmosphere to the unknown world below.  The percussion gets periodically more thunderous, there's judicious use of a staccato electric guitar, and the developing synth tones blend in perfectly with the rising and falling orchestral swells.  This sustained atmosphere is wonderfully evocative on headphones in a dark room - highly recommended.

Saturne is supported on this CD by Surgir (1985), a half-hour orchestral work in a similar vein, but without the synthesisers and guitar.  It's worth a listen, but it's the main work that I keep going back to with all its great swirling electronics.
Original LP cover for Saturne, 1980
 mega / zippy

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this work. Such well constructed and entrancing music, but it's not a comfortable listening experience. Needs the right time and good mental health!

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