Postmodern to the tip of his orchestral bow, Montréal-based Pierre-Yves Martel has created a single track, 54-minute CD dedicated to estinto or extinguished timbres, that is ones sounded briefly and barely audibly. Yet he’s created this futuristic equivalent of a visual artist’s sparse canvas using primordial and Baroque-era instruments — harmonica and soprano viola da gamba respectively — often played synchronously if not in harmony.
Interlaced among these textures, which at points can suggest ratcheting percussion or harmonium-like euphony, are protracted silences. Their frequent, but intermittent, presence becomes as much a part of the album’s soundtrack as the tones which sometimes swell northwards of pianissimo. Overall many of his narrative tones seem as fine as micron wire. Eventually though the peeping wheezes and single-string sweeps attain polyphonic cross talk encompassing varied tempos and pitches. Likely using scordatura or non-standard tuning to extend his viola da gamba’s range and techniques, during certain passages Martel produces electronic-reminiscent tones acoustically. With the track’s concluding minutes enlivened by a brief harmonic upsurge of bell-like peals before subsiding, the unique program continues to makes its haunting presence felt as much through cerebral memory as aurally.