Francisco López – Presque Tout

Presque Tout

Had this not been a release by Francisco López (who has been creating sound art and electronic music for over 30 years, continuously building on a massive catalogue of music and sound) on the Line Imprint label (“exploring the aesthetics of contemporary and digital minimalism” since 2000) – then I probably would have thought Presque Tout was a conceptual joke.

But it isn’t.
It’s perhaps the most radical release in ambient sound recording – its extreme minimalism perhaps only surpassed by the well-known ‘4’33″‘ by John Cage.

Though Francisco López can be “shifting with passion from the limits of perception to the most dreadful abyss of sonic power”, this release strictly deals with the limits of perception.

The title, Presque Tout, is a direct reference to Luc Ferrari’s landmark composition(s) Presque Rien(“Almost Nothing”).
And this collection presents exactly that: seven hours of ‘almost nothing’.

A first playing in the background had me thinking there was something wrong: I literally heard nothing at all.
Then I read the liner notes:
“Due to the extreme subtlety of these recordings, virtually all of the audio content is completely inaudible through laptop or equivalent small speakers. Quality speakers or headphones – as well as a very quiet surrounding environment – are highly recommended for ideal listening”.

Even when playing on (quality) speakers and turning the volume up quite high it takes a fair amount of concentration to determine what you’re listening to: some tracks felt as if I was listening to the sound of my home’s water pipes in the wall, some other tracks had such extreme low frequencies that I felt it physically more than actually hearing it.
(At one point I just watched my speaker conusses flapping nervously, as if they were about to explode).

With headphones, it’s much easier to determine the subtle, almost inaudible, sounds. But it still takes a Zen-like concentration and deep listening to actively listen to these sounds, because it quickly merges with the sounds that are already surrounding you. Francisco López’ sonic universe is based on a profound listening of the world“.

As far as minimalist sound goes, this is about the maximum. One step further and we enter the black hole of sound, the anechoic room. Or Cage’s famous composition.
As usual, there is no clue to determine the original sources of the sounds López used to create these soundscapes. Naming all tracks (but one) “Untitled” also invites listener to use his own imagination.

Presque Tout is a Data DVD containing 7 hours of (uncompressed) audio files. The tracks are taken from obscure and now out-of-print editions, ranging from 1993 to 2013, but the album also includes the new – 3 hour (!) – piece Untitled#313″.

Because of it’s sheer length and its content, Presque Tout will obviously be too extreme for most listeners (and most audio systems).
But if you take your time, open up your ears and can muster the concentration that is needed, this album will also teach you to listen differently to the world around you.

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