Review of In A Second Floor Window [12k1100]

Musique Machine (.COM)

Nowadays, no-one is just a musician, musical artists span multiple disciplines giving their work added complexity, interest, and nuance. And Christopher Bissonnette is no exception. The Canadian artist straddles the worlds of music, sound art and graphic design; spending his days exploring visual and audio art formats while performing and presenting his work at art galleries and music venues alike.

Bissonnette started making music as part of six-person collective Thinkbox, embarking on his solo career in 2005 with the release of the album Periphery where the artist deconstructed piano and orchestral samples, recontextualising them until they bore little resemblance to their original form. Bissonnette’s music has since evolved to include field recordings, musique concrète, electroacoustics and modular synthesis. Having been part of the Kranky and Dronarivum label families for some years, he joined the experimental electronic music 12K label in 2020 debuting with the luscious Wayfinding – his subtle ambient soundscapes were used to exam the concept of reclusiveness. For the follow-up and his latest release, In A Second Floor Window, the musical aesthetic remains the same, but the focus has shifted to the long-term effects of isolation.

So-called because of Bissonnette’s view from his studio, In A Second Floor Window is a soothing, subtle, melancholic, transcendent, ambient journey through isolation. Beautifully delicate, it captures the all-encompassing experience of fragility that descends during isolation, while remaining simultaneously heart-breaking in its melancholia. Opening track ‘Enclosure’ begins with slow-building muted synth – the delicate padding of the keys palpable, becoming paired with high-pitched swooping sonics that build at a snail’s pace before the whole piece settles back down to near silence. ‘Maunder’ is a woozy trawl that would not be out of place soundtracking the pensive train journey into the zone in Tarkovsky’s Stalker. The background clanking and creaking of the electroacoustics is soon overtaken by melodic synth lines that rise and fall as the movement continues. Next track ‘Follower’ leads us into the apparent calm of the night, opening with chirping crickets that continue throughout as a synth drone wavers behind pronounced notes, conjuring images of the vast and otherworldly – taking in the breadths of infinity and beyond.

As we approach the halfway point, Bissonnette invokes muffled flute on the delicate and spiritual ‘Batiste’ – sounding in part like woodwind but in part uncannily like a female vocal – embraced by crackling and the occasional acoustic sounds of a distorted guitar. ‘Westerly’ with its hints of kosmische is probably one of the more melodic tracks here distinguished by its bowing slide guitar reminiscent of the trademark sound of Ry Cooder, while the bird chirping of ‘Patina’ introduces synth notes that appear like rain, not melodic but harmonious, nevertheless. The final track ‘Undertow’ has an undulating and vibrating melody – a trembling static that very delicately brings this piece of work to a close; the high notes falling like icy trickles. This is not the comfort and warmth of the previous tracks – this is the culmination of isolation.

All in all, In A Second Floor Window is both a  moving and unexpectedly soothing album

View Website View Release