Chances are the local mill, whether wind or water-driven, would have been the grandest bit of technology a person in pre-industrial society regularly beheld. The music box, the earliest common man-made contraption for conveying “recorded” music to an audience, would have been among the most diminutive. How appropriate to bring these two together.
Maze & Lindholm (Pierre de Mûelenaere and Otto Lindholm) are based in Brussels but traveled to rural northern France to make Carillon sans timbre ni marteau at an old mill.
The album is presented as the first volume in a series that will explore “compositional processes focused on cyclical time,” an apt temporality given their agrarian surroundings. Although it is difficult to discern what if any acoustic effect the actual setting provides, the duo take the auditory equivalent of a magnifying glass to the mechanism of a music box. Notes struck by tiny tines are looped, dubbed, and stretched into ambient eternity, as is every crank of the mechanism and creak of the box in which it is housed. As the tuned teeth cause the pins to reverberate, chimes ramify as sprinklings of fairy dust and triumphant flourishes, while others blare like warning bells or throw off tiny flares of distortion. The sound is surely enhanced by additional close-up electronic magic, as this take on “the borders of contemporary ambient” renders the physical reality of the source intermittently abstract. The air around it billows out, inhales back in.
As unlikely as it may seem given the cyclical nature of clockwork, there is drama and narrative progression. Somewhat perversely for a lullaby machine, the album takes on a somewhat dark cast as it winds toward an end. Though this can of course be negated by simply starting over, as Maze & Lindholm suggest you listen to Carillon sans timbre ni marteau on repeat.