Flint Glass – Hierakonpolis

Brume Records (BRUME 03), 2002 / Funkwelten Records (FW 005), 2003

Gwenn Tremorin, the man behind the dark electronic instrumental project Flint Glass and the French label Brume Records, is the most talented producer of electronic music I’ve ever heard.  The sounds he comes up with are unlike anything else; I don’t know where this guy gets his stuff from.  It’s as if he’s drawing these bits of sonic bizarreness out of the air and experimenting with them however he sees fit.  The most admirable thing about Tremorin’s innovative productive talents is despite the wide range of creativity on display, his music always sounds like Flint Glass.

Hierakonpolis, Flint Glass’ debut, was released on Brume in 2002 with several remixes, then re-released in 2003 on Germany’s Funkwelten Records with the Dashur EP added in place of the mixes.  Tremorin has often stated that the work of horror author H.P. Lovecraft is a primary inspiration for his music (Flint Glass’ 2006 album was titled Nyarlathotep, and was full of tracks titled for Lovecraftiana), and his music is certainly reflective of Lovecraft’s cloying and amorphous atmosphere.  Flint Glass is formless and difficult to describe, but undeniably powerful; like Lovecraft’s writing, the music gets under your skin and leaves a lasting impression that sticks with you long after you remove your headphones….but it’s strangely detaching, like a half-remembered dream that vanishes upon waking, imparting only a vague but visceral echo.

From the dramatic looped echo and empowering distorted buzz of the title track, to the open spaces and baffling aquatics of “Heliotrop” and the muffled tribal pummeling of “Amenemhat,” and the amount of innovation on Hierankopolis is almost overwhelming.  There’s typically enough rhythm to head-nod (or even dance) to Flint Glass, but the tempo is off-kilter enough to produce a serious challenge.  On the other hand, Tremorin’s ambient sense is extremely keen; it’s deep, dark, and skewed enough to warrant description as the aural equivalent of Lovecraft.  Try on the warped metallic clangor of “Dust Particles,” the bent air of “Throw About,” the sand-choked “Middle Kingdom”, or the various short interlude pieces separating the longer tracks.  Tremorin is indeed a mad scientist of his trade; the best way to describe his music is rhythmical dark ambient, but even that doesn’t tell the whole tale.

My personal choice between the two versions is the Funkwelten release; the Dashur material outdoes the remixes on the Brume original.  Dashur provides a smooth transition, resulting in a 17-track album that’s really an extended Hierankopolis.  The vocal samples of “Al Hasard (Live)” segue smoothly into buzzing percussion and looming ambiance, while “Closer” and “Philae” both contain more strange percussion backed by backing waves and swaths.

Taken on a certain level, the music of Flint Glass is particularly schizophrenic and meandering, and resides within a very limited range of focus despite the range of styles on display.  I should point out it’s less music and more a collection of experimental sounds held together by a common elements; the actual chord progression is either minimal, or completely nonexistent.  Fortunately for Tremorin, the mood remains consistent; Hierakonpolis does have a certain flow and cohesion to it, but it comes from the overarching sound design rather than any narrative quality or sense of progression.  If you took all if Flint Glass’ work – album tracks, remixes, compilation tracks – and mashed them all into one big pile, then chose ten randomly, you’d likely have a listening experience very similar to any other random group.  Listened to attentively for extended periods, the music tends to blur together into one slickly produced mass of sound.

Not surprisingly for a man of his talents, Tremorin is a contributor and a collaborator to many dark electronic projects, most notably the Aztec-influenced project Tzolk’in where he teams with This Morn’ Omina member Nicolas Van Meirhaeghe.  Flint Glass is also an accomplished remixer; many of his best remixes have been released together as an album, titled Circumsounds.  I get the sense Tremorin works very well with the right people; his chaotic foundations are arguably more effective if given additional structure in collaborative projects, or if he applies his unique sense to preexisting material as a remixer.  What Tremorin may lack in direction and songwriting for his own work, he more than makes up for with pure style and awe-inspiring technique.

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