Pascal Bideau is a French composer based in London who has written and arranged music for dozens of films and documentaries. He has studied Indonesian gamelan, and in his alter ego of Akusmi he explores some of the tropes of this stately, percussive ceremonial music, mixing it with minimalism, jazz and rave.
Fleeting Future is rather lovely. Each piece is based around the hypnotic riffs used in gamelan, all using the pentatonic slendro scales, but Bideau orchestrates them by multitracking saxophonist Ruth Velten, trombonist Florian Juncker and drummer Daniel Brandt. A serpentine whole-tone scale is overlaid with a subtle Motown beat and a twin-saxophone freakout on Sarinbuana; Divine Moments of Truth finds Bideau playing a gamelan melody on acoustic guitars until it starts to resemble a high-speed bossa nova.
Cogito starts with a simple riff and assembles so many layers of woodwind over it that it begins to sound like Steve Reich played by a trad jazz ensemble. The clanking gamelan percussion of Concrescence is bolstered by parping woodwind, elegant brass and an urgent octave bass until it starts to shimmer and glisten like a Michael Nyman soundtrack.
Best is Neo Tokyo, where a discordant, percussive, two-note sax riff is overlaid with horns and chaotic percussion: it’s as if Acid Brass were playing Philip Glass, a mechanical soundscape that conjures up quaintly futuristic images of modernist cities, utopian architecture and clean, frictionless transport.
As with minimalism, or indeed rave music, gamelan often sounds as if it has been plotted on graph paper – this is metrical, almost mathematically rigid music, based on repetition. Bideau’s skill is to slightly smudge the lines, to pump air into something potentially flat and humanise the machine.
Also out this month
Activities (Colorfield Records) is the first solo album by Los Angeles bassist Anna Butterss. Playing bass guitar and double bass, she darts between angular, post-punk instrumentals, chamber jazz and electronica on a series of instrumental miniatures. Ukrainian composer Valentina Goncharova has enjoyed a revival following an excellent compilation of her work, but now Hidden Harmony Recordings has remastered Ocean, her magnificent 1988 “symphony for electric violin and other instruments in 10+ parts”, taking its cues from krautrock, Hindustani classical music and ambient drones to create something almost overwhelming in scale. Revelators (24 June, 37d03d) is an unusual collaboration between MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger and bassist/producer Cameron Ralston, comprising of four lengthy, trippy instrumentals – ambient Americana laced with astral jazz, Bollywood strings and dub dynamics.