Soon after offering an album by Afflux, the Ground Fault label released a solo CD by the field improv trio's sound manipulator Eric Cordier. The four pieces on Digitalis Purpurea date back to 1992-1997 and were first devised for specific sound environments that included hundreds of speakers. The title is the Latin expression for the foxglove, a plant out of which we extract digitalis, a heart stimulant in a very small quantity, otherwise a violent poison. How these lethal connotations relate to the music is hard to tell. For instance, the difficult breathing of the church organ in the "Postface" comes much closer to a slow death than anything violent. Besides the organ, which also appears in the title track, Cordier uses as sound sources a hurdy-gurdy in "Digitalis Purpurea," a dulcimer in "Dactyle Aglomérée," and a field recording in "Les Os Longs." Each piece uses extreme spatialization; sounds move around constantly in a way that makes you wish you could hear these pieces in their original form. "Digitalis Purpurea" begins with loud outbursts of...something...interspersed with long stretches of near-silence. Three minutes in, it shifts to a dense, multi-layered, exquisitely detailed drone, like a tropical rainforest at night where you can follow the path of each insect and bird with your ears. The dulcimer in the second piece is played with a bow. Despite a number of transformations and manipulations, this sound remains at the heart of the piece, making it bit too linear. More typical of acousmatic composition, "Les Os Longs" evokes the shimmering tones of Jonty Harrison and Sergio Barroso. But the "Postface," with its whining organ kept at the threshold of wind and note, is the highlight of this set.
Digitalis Purpurea Review
by François Couture