Mathematically speaking, 86 point 5 percent of this record is really really, really good. However the opening skirmish comprises a six-minute exercise in retro 80s (90s?) power-electronics industrial slash Z-grade sci-fi movie soundtrackery slash amateur early-Birchville Cat Motelisms which had me reaching for the remote control and checking that I had played the correct CD. Perhaps the track title will provide a clue? "Sève Brute" = "Crude Sap" according to Babelfish; actually that's not as inaccurate as you would expect.
Well. 6:05 of "Crude Sap"-induced pain certainly left me in the perfect condition to appreciate the subsequent beauty of the rest of "Here", though. Guillaume Gargaud is a name new to me, but not his sound. He studied improvisation at France's IIMA, and released two CDs, with Loïs Laplace, as Aarde. He has participated in the Future Ethnic Comparative Research Lab, examining ancient and modern technological evolution, and collaborated with Marc Roques for an audio/visual project called Zooloop. He released his first solo album "Le Lieu" in 2008 through Dirty Demos and his second solo album "She" on Utech Records dropped in 2009.
That sound: according to the cover he plays improvised guitar and electronics, so yup.. you got it -- classic micro(-ambient-)sound with all the attendant glitchy patterns, (a)syncopations and rhythms buried in a sturdy mass of processed electronic fuzz tones and buzzy drones. Nothing too special and nothing much new? It's more than just the same-old same-old. You know you're not listening to something utterly unique or original, but with "Here" Gargaud is working some magic of his own and has conjured up a curious thing that is both solid, dependable, reliable, as well as just a little bit fresh. Here are the requisite impurities and the organic tonal washes, but here also are the threads of guitar noodle clawing their way to the surface, into the fore. There is an important carefully studied and steady presentation of the guitar aspect within "Here". Sometime doodling, sometime dominating -- Gargaud is clearly an excellent guitarist. Track 7 "Aediinae" stands alone on this disc as a pure guitar improvisation and it is a stunning, moving piece of free music, which -- weirdly it's true -- recalls Richard Thompson. And the closing track, a brief plaintive flurry of gently stuttering multi-tracked guitar called "Sans Corps" ("Without Body"? That's has to be the most poetically apt titling I can remember for a long time.. you gotta hear it) more than recalled the ethereal cosmologies of one-time Popol Vuh guitarist Daniel Fischelscher.
I believe there is a case for periodic consolidation in a sound or genre or style or whatever. Every once in a while it is good to just be able to hold up a good, solid piece of work; to put a stake in the ground, a psychic line in the sand, file a touchstone for the future, and at the same time it must be worthy of one's attention in its own right. "Here" makes a strong case to be considered such. In fact, "Here" is a goddamn rock, a reference-point, but with sparkly highlights, markers pointing out a way ahead. "Here" is your tying together of several cosmic threads of music history: combine Fennesz slash Hecker-school guitar+electronic sonics, the deep-space electronica of Biosphere, the European Free Improv tradition of Derek Bailey's guitar-playing, and the propulsive benzodiazepine blur of über-minimal dub-techno wizards like Basic Channel or Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project, the seminal tonal tape+guitar forays of Fripp & Eno, somehow... and it starts to look more like a rare-earth element that turned up for the first time last week in the guts of a meteorite.
Step neatly over that WTF first track and forget it. I say you will recognise a lot of "Here" but you will find yourself coming back time and again because of the little distinguishing differences. "Here" is dark and light, it's new and it's old, it's very evocative and it's unquestionably beautiful. 9/10 -- Young Savage (21 April, 2010)