over art, I have always felt, is vital to the music itself. If done correctly, it offers a glimpse into the heart of the record and a hint at what the music would look like if it was amplified for sight and perceived through other sensory organs. In other words, for all the images and metaphors music often presents us with, an album cover is its tangible embodiment.
Which is why the art work adorning Christopher Bissonnette’s solo debut is so beautiful—a blurred streak of blue surrounded by a pale smear of white on both sides. Looking more deeply into the image, it could very well be a photograph of a forest-encircled lake, distorted and obscured to the point where it is fractured from the source and adopts only the qualities of tone and color. This technique mirrors exactly how the album sounds.
Each of the seven lengthy compositions that Bissonnette creates for Periphery are based on piano and orchestral recordings that have been manipulated and reassembled. More importantly, however, he allows the sounds to take on a new and heightened meaning as he completely recontextualizes them. Apart from the twinkling piano notes that litter the opening track “In Accordance,” the organic sound sources are cut up and digitally crafted into lengthy drones that bear very little resemblance to their unprocessed beginnings.
Essentially, Bissonnette is applying what Fennessz has done with the guitar to instruments found in the classical music canon. This music is also easy to imagine surfacing on a Keith Fullerton Whitman album or one of Taylor Deupree’s recent forays into acoustic processing. Yet, the depth and—most notably—the beauty trapped inside Periphery’s tracks are undeniable as Bissonnette creates thick drones that are as amorphous as they are radiant. His music seems to take on the properties of a dense fog—a wholly immersive atmosphere that envelops you in both its mystery and magnificence.
Despite the fact that digital sound processing continues to rise in popularity—particularly in the experimental drone facet of music—Bissonnette does make a distinctive, if predictable, mark on the genre. With Periphery, he continues the dream of Edgard Varèse and his liberation of sound by creating several sonic environments that are entirely removed from their respective sources and manipulated at will. In the process Bissonnette successfully resurrects a wholly new context for the music—along with that of his obscured cover art.
Reviewed by: Ryan Potts
Reviewed on: 2005-12-14