Electronic Music, Writing, and Reviews

"Altocumulus" is my artist name for electronic music, ambient, and my writing about experimental music and related subjects.

Sun, 18 Mar, 2012


By Lucette Bourdin and Phillip Wilkerson

Earthmantra netlabel, 2011

Earthmantra release number 163

Yes, it's been a long while since I posted. There are so many options for me to write, paint, do electronic music, which one would I do first? Which one would I choose in an overwhelming world? I end up neglecting one thing or the other. Will anyone remember to read this Blog? Let's find out.

There are so many ambient/electronic music netlabels out there that it would be impossible to hear all the new entries in our field, even if you had a vast amount of time. Since I don't have that vast amount, I have to limit my listening somehow. The natural scope of my limitation is the community I belong to, "Stillstream," and its constellation of electronic musical artists, along with their friends and collaborators. I listen to them first because their internet radio station and the live DJ's play their own music, which is a great way to listen before you download. Fortunately, much of the Stillstream group's music is available for free download, including this album "Coast to Coast," by Lucette Bourdin and Phillip Wilkerson.

It is now a year since Lucette Bourdin's earthly light was extinguished. She died in February of 2011 after a long battle with cancer. During the last years of her life she produced a large body of electronic music work, in a wide variety of themes and moods. She also collaborated with other Stillstream artists, including Phillip Wilkerson, and this duo album proved to be her last living work.

Lucette lived in Southern California, while Phillip Wilkerson lives in Florida. The idea for their collaboration was a musical depiction of a trans-continental train ride from Florida to California. Philip Wilkerson specializes in long, drawn-out abstract melodic lines that nevertheless always make musical sense. Lucette was unashamedly romantic and used all sorts of musical mood-enhancing effects over a basically melancholy, Debussean soundscape. Together they create a soundtrack which is full of mystery and half-hidden imagery, all tied together by the sound of a train whistle (surely one of the most evocative sounds of our civilization) and the smooth driving rhythm of the train's passage on the singing rails.

You wouldn't be wrong if you thought of "Coast to Coast" as the soundtrack for a film that never got made. I can just hear the voices of the actors (in French, of course) speaking of lost love and hopelessness, as well as the pale glimmering possibility of a new life out in California, the destination, and desolation, of all Western dreamers. It is interesting that as the album advances and plays out, the train noise disappears into a wash of sound into which emotion and action fade, like the fog of California, hiding the storyline, and its end, from our perception.

I meant to write this earlier in the year, but as I said above, there has just been so much to listen to that I find it hard to sit and listen to one album all the way through. Maybe you, too have this problem of overabundance. But in the end I pick this album by Bourdin and Wilkerson as the best of 2011, at least in the Stillstream community. Cherish it, because it is something which will not happen again.

Posted at 2:04 am | link