[reviews] afe103lcd
mark hamn: je déchire l'ongle aux criminels

earlabs []
webzine, the netherlands, may 2008

"Je déchire l'ongle aux criminels" is like a particularly fiendish Chinese box. Electronic treatments, guitar, field recordings, and other such objects are used in a complex manner, but they are somehow made to fit perfectly together.

In bringing this about, a strong creative spark is evident. Mark Hamn foregrounds relationships of aggression and decay, clang or chime and fading pulsation while simultaneously showing a subtle concern for timbre. During "Malaises douces", for one, the truculent metallic character and use of tremolo in the piece finds a pleasurable counterpoint with the more meditative wooden tones of the guitar.

In these places, the material is more abstract, draped in an air of exploratory research into sonic microcosms, but elsewhere the music quite naturally slides into a different economy like one body of water into another, one which is more stationary and slow, moody and reflective. Here piano, organ, and distant voices come into play. Occupying a sort of middle ground, they are lustrously figured, as Hamn teases away at repeated phrases.

Other sound qualities and rhythmic trajectories are introduced as the work continues. These keep the proceedings from becoming entirely relaxed, for there always remains a measure of uncertainty about how the music will continue to play out, both in terms of speed and direction. At times, patterns are the chief concern, at others an interest in the sounds in themselves is at hand. "Je déchire l'ongle aux criminels" chronicles a myriad of unravelling sonic relationships and insights in great detail.

[Max Schaefer]