RAGNAR GRIPPE

Avant-garde archetype still shim­mers, four decades on.

Prog - - Intro - CR

For ev­ery per­son whose groove thang is a repet­i­tive fu­sion of musique con­crète and post­mod­ern clas­si­cal com­po­si­tion, you’ll find some­one who reck­ons it sounds like peb­bles be­ing tossed down a deep well at ran­dom in­ter­vals. It’s safe to say that Sand – a cult clas­sic of the genre – is chiefly for con­verts and afi­ciona­dos. Orig­i­nally re­leased in 1977 – when musique con­crète had al­ready been all the rage with the cool kids for two decades – and with its vinyl ver­sion hav­ing be­come a sought-af­ter col­lec­tor’s item, it reap­pears at age 40, sound­ing ev­ery bit as un­usual and cu­ri­ous as it did upon birth. If you’re pre­pared to let its rum­bles, beeps and crack­les mes­merise you, it’s ca­pa­ble of trans­port­ing you to a tran­quil Zen plateau.

Grippe, a Swede who’d trained as a cel­list, stud­ied at Paris’ Groupe de Recherches Mu­si­cales in the early 70s un­der the likes of Luc Fer­rari and Pierre Scha­ef­fer (as had Jean-Michel Jarre). He was asked to com­pose mu­sic for the artist Viswanad­han Velu’s sand paint­ings at the avant-garde gallery which also housed the Shan­dar record la­bel (home to Terry Ri­ley and others). As ma­te­rial, sand, reck­oned Velu, of­fered “a di­chotomy be­tween mat­ter and mean­ing of be­ing”. Grippe not only com­pre­hended but em­braced his friend’s brief. His two-part, 50-minute cre­ation, his de­but al­bum, grad­u­ally builds from sub­tle tonal rhythms to a slightly more “present” piece, with faintly dis­cernible or­gan melodies and flut­ter­ing elec­troa­cous­tic mur­murs.

There’s per­haps just a hint of Moon­dog-like fever­ish­ness at the (rel­a­tively) peak mo­ments, but sound ma­nip­u­la­tion has rarely seemed so del­i­cate and tac­tile, like a sculp­tor work­ing very ten­ta­tively with a price­less form of glass. There’s cer­tainly no rush to get any­where in par­tic­u­lar, and the rolling, al­most sub­lim­i­nally mu­tat­ing search­ing, gilded with de­lay and tape echo, is of more sig­nif­i­cance to Grippe than any spe­cific rev­e­la­tion or res­o­lu­tion. As he feels his way around, a kind of sense is made, and the edgy be­comes serene.

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