The Quebec sound art collective Avatar and its affiliated record label Ohm Éditions love to propose enigmas. Martin Meilleur's CD Tango comes packaged in a two-panel piece of cardboard. An old short-wave radio is depicted on the front. There is no other information included -- none. Tango is a single-indexed 62-minute piece. The composer used bits of radio programs stolen from various frequencies, but mostly in the short-wave range. They are all real broadcasts captured on the fly, amplified, edited, multi-tracked, assembled, but otherwise untreated. Reviewers who receive the handy press release will know all that, but the listener will not, a situation sure to induce a certain level of uncertainty about the status of what is heard. No matter the amount of information you have access to, Tango remains a strong work. Its appeal cannot reside in any novelty/vanguard technique or concept. No, it lies in the simple fact that Meilleur has talent. The piece unfolds like a cut-and-paste radio drama. There are two types of sounds. Immediately noticeable are the actual broadcasts, ranging from CB communications to classical and heavy metal radio programs. More subtle and providing a unifying background are radio-related noises: white noise, static, coded transmissions, etc. All sound sources were recorded from vintage radios with a microphone, in different locations and under every kind of weather. The listener can detect movements in the piece, developments, a structure somewhere between classical and tape music. Meilleur builds tension, provides relief, and introduces new characters, surprising plot twists, and a delicate ending. A tribute to analog technology, Tango is an impressive debut. Strongly recommended.
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