Graded on a Curve: Melville A.D.,
11 Electric Poems
for E.M. Cioran

When it comes down to my philosophy of life, everything I believe I stole directly from the Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran. A master of detachment and nattering nabob of negativity who wrote in a pithy and crystalline French, you can distil his entire work to one of his marvelous aphorisms, to wit: “No one has been so convinced as I of the futility of everything; and no one has taken so tragically so many things.” Just how much did he hate life and his fellow man? Let’s see: “Sometimes I wish I were a cannibal—less for the pleasure of eating someone than for the pleasure of vomiting him.”

I’ve long wanted to write a concept album to him, but it seems Melville A.D, who entitled a 2015 LP 11 Electric Poems for E.M. Cioran, has beaten me to the punch. I’m not typically much of a fan of abstract electronic music, but Melville A.D—one of the musical projects of Frenchman and long-time New Yorker Didier Cremieux—strikes exactly the right bleak but still funky note on his songs, which are entitled “Emc 01,” “Emc 02,” etc. Like Cioran’s dark aphorisms the songs on the LP strike an unflinching and elegiac note, one appropriate to the man who once wrote, “To live is to lose ground.”

Cremieux’s other musical projects include Mr. Untel, collaboration with fellow Frenchman Gerard Iangelia. Cremieux described Mr. Untel’s electronic music it to me as “cosmic music for cocktails in the bayou.” According to Cremieux, another project, Firefly Choir, is “a pure electronic project characterized by longer, slower pieces,” featuring “processed organic sounds and as little structure as possible.” Cremieux told me he is inspired by the written word: “I often find myself with many sound ideas after reading words and always try to create a soundscape or a sound illustration to such works.”

As for his homage to Cioran, he told me, “I could’ve painted a portrait, I illustrated it in sound instead. I love the work of Cioran and as often as I read his words always compare it to … digging a tunnel so I can appreciate fully the light at the end of it. I love his way of considering existence as quite mundane and this sort of realization that Man is nothing special. And I often find the reading comforting, contemporary, and so far from any possibility of political correctness. A relief in our time…”

And yet as bleak as Cioran’s aphorisms are there’s a beauty to them, just as there’s a beauty to these songs. And they’re not so static that they all sorta blend together in a musical mulch. “Emc 04” employs tablas and a cool synthetic drone, and includes what I assume is a quote by Cioran, although I’ve read most of his work and it doesn’t ring a bell with me. It’s almost spritely, in its way, as is “Emc 01,” which builds to a nice groove and is really quite beautiful. The similarly funky “Emc 02” employs bass, synthesizer, and electronic drums, and seems to pose a question, much in the same way Cioran questioned literally everything.

“Emc 03” is majestic and beautiful, complete with the sounds of the wind and the sea, while the luscious “Emc 10” reminds me of whale songs and “Emc 08” is a veritable dance tune compared to most of its companions. And all of the tunes held my interest, which is more, much more, than I can say about your typical electronic album. But then I’m probably cutting it slack because E.M. Cioran means so much to me. Thanks to him I’ve become a torch-bearer of futility, who believes that death is the icing on the birthday cake of life and that Hope is just the lubricant that keeps the meat grinder running.

I wish I understood what was being repeated in “Emc 07” but I don’t; suffice it to say it’s more of a sound collage than its mates, and strikes just the right damned note. Anyway, it is a surprisingly fast number, and reminds me of one of Cioran’s apoplectic diatribes against the human race. “Emc 09” is a loud subterranean blast of discordant music, and demonstrates that Cremieux is quite suited to the industrial genre, while “Emc 08” is a cool drone with a startling synth and a very cool beat.

“Emc 05” is a bubbling and catchy tune, one of the best on the album, minimalist but not in a way designed to cause you misery or suffering, which seems to be the point of much of the electronic music I hear. “Emc 06”is another fast-paced tune, with propulsive drums that segue from a kind of jazz to a funk that incorporates lots of neat percussion. This one might have even made the famous miserabalist Cioran happy, although I doubt it; he was a classical man through and through. Finally, “Emc 11” opens on a note of deranged cocktail jazz and sounds like what Hunter S. Thompson might have heard over the casino loudspeakers while fucked up on the collective contents of what he called a “police mobile laboratory.” It swings in its way, and like every other song on 11 Electronic Poems for E.M. Cioran is well worth a listen.

Melville A.D makes cool music to chill out by, and I’ll bet it sounds great stoned. No that I’m condoning drug use, if you’re under the age of 10. If you love the Berlin Eno-period of David Bowie’s career you’re sure to like 11 Electronic Poems for E.M. Cioran. To say nothing of Melville A.D’s other musical offerings. And who knows, perhaps it will cause you to seek out the work of E.M. Cioran; I particularly recommend his The Trouble With Being Born. He was a tortured genius if ever there was one, who loathed existence and his fellow man, and like his compatriots in futility the Austrian Thomas Bernard and the Irishman Samuel Beckett, believed that all was for naught. Who else could have written, so casually, “Only one thing matters; learning to be the loser.” I agree, but there are moments of pleasure to be had as we, who “have convictions only if we’ve studied nothing thoroughly,” flounder from the “laughable accidents” of our births to our meaningless deaths, and this LP is definitely one of them.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text