Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series began back in 1983. For the next twelve years, a total of thirty-five albums were released. They’ve been described as the musical equivalent of a collection of art books. These albums are a reminder of some of the most innovative, important and interesting music of an era. This included albums by Steven Brown, John Lurie, Arto Lindsay, Harold Budd, Brion Gysin, Aksak Maboul and Hector Zazou. In total, thirty-five albums were released between 1983 and 1995. Sadly, in 1995,  then Made To Measure series was put on hold.

Fast forward nineteen years, to 2014, and Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series made a welcome return. Fittingly, the album that marked the return of a landmark series, was Jozef Van Wissem’s It Is Time For You To Return. Since then, five further volumes have followed. It seemed the Made To Measure series was back to its innovative best. The big question was, who would feature in the next instalment of the Made To Measure series?

Two months later, and the answer to that question has been revealed. It’s none other than Bérangère Maximin’s fourth album Dangerous Orbits. It’s been released on Crammed Discs, on 18th May 2015. This is a fitting addition to the Made To Measure series.

Bérangère Maximin has a reputation for continually releasing groundbreaking music. Her music is ambitious, challenging and pushes musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes way beyond. The music can also be described as challenging, cerebral and engaging. That’s been the case throughout Bérangère Maximin’s career.

The Bérangère Maximin story begins in 1976, in the Reunion Island. It’s a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean. Those that have visited the Reunion Island will be familiar with its unspoilt beaches. It must have been a beautiful and inspirational place for Bérangère to grow up. That’s apart from the active volcano that looms above the island. However, by the time Bérangère was fifteen, she was about to leave behind the beauty and danger of the Reunion Island behind.

Next stop for Bérangère Maximin was the Metropolis. However, she never turned her back on the place she grew-up. Instead, the samples the sounds of the Reunion Island on her albums. They’re what Bérangère refers to her “digital chimeras,” which she recalls using a myriad of midi controllers and laptops. That however, was still to come.

Before that, Bérangère Maximin studied electroacoustic music at the Conservatoire National de Région de Perpignan. Bérangère’s tutor was musique concrète composer Denis Dufour. He was Bérangère’s tutor right through to 1999, when she graduated.

Having graduated, Bérangère Maximin embarked upon a musical career. By then, Bérangère Maximin was using her personal experiences for musical inspiration. This meant that Bérangère’s music was very personal. There was an inherent honesty to Bérangère’s music. However, it took nine years before she released her debut album

It was American avant-garde composer, arranger and musician John Zorn, that “discovered” Bérangère Maximin. His New York based Tzadik label released Bérangère’s 2008 debut album, Tant Que Les Heures Passent.  

On the release of Tant Que Les Heures Passent, critics forecasted a great future for Bérangère Maximin. This proved to be the case.

Four years passed before Bérangère Maximin released her sophomore album was released. A lot had happened to Bérangère. She had met Ukrainian artist Anton Yakutovych. He would provide the artwork for Bérangère’s next two albums. Anton also became one of Bérangère’s closest friends as she become one of the rising stars of New York’s improv scene.

Through exposure to New York’s thriving improv scene, Bérangère was inspired to embark upon two European tours. The first tour featured just Bérangère. However, the other tour saw her collaborating with Fred Frith, Fennesz or Rhys Chatham. Working with musicians of that calibre proved inspirational for Bérangère, and influenced her sophomore album, No One Is An Island.

No One Is An Island was released on indie label, Sub Rosa in 2012. Although very different to her debut album, No One Is An Island was released to widespread critical acclaim. Bérangère’s peers hailed the album a triumph. Already, Bérangère was gaining the respect of established artists. Her star was in the ascendancy.

Just a year after the release of No One Is An Island, Bérangère returned with her third album, Infinitesimal. It was released on Sub Rosa in 2013. When critics heard Infinitesimal, they hailed the album a truly innovative, introspective and ambitious album. This was very different from other albums in this genre. Mind you, they didn’t have the imagination of Bérangère Maximin.

That’s apparent on Infinitesimal. Bérangère was determined to push musical boundaries to their limits, and even way beyond. She tore the rule book up, then rewrote it. The result was Infinitesimal, a magical and mystical fusion of disparate sounds and effects. They merge and morph into one, playing their part in a series of Bérangère’s “digital chimeras.”  The result was music that was captivating, engaging, innovative and minimalist. It seemed that Bérangère Maximin’s third album had made a big impression on critics, cultural commentators, musicians and music lovers. Will that be the case with Dangerous Orbits?

For Dangerous Orbits, Bérangère Maximin composed, recorded, arranged, produced and mixed the five soundscapes. This took place at Bérangère’s Home Sweet Home Studios, in Paris, during 2014 and 2015. Now they make their debut on Bérangère Maximin’s fourth album  Dangerous Orbits, which just happens to be Volume 41 in Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series. Dangerous Orbits, you’ll soon realise, is a welcome addition to the Made To Measure series?

Opening Bérangère Maximin’s fourth album Dangerous Orbits is Cracks, an eleven minute epic. Synth drone, as if firing off a warning sound. They’re like a siren. Meanwhile, a myriad of sounds assail you. Some are eerie, others industrial, futuristic or otherworldly. What sounds like a turnstile or rack can be heard. So can crackles, rumbles, bubbles and scrapes. Briefly, a futuristic vocal emerges from the depths. All the time, sounds flit in and out of the soundscape. Some like drills and machinery are recognisable. They play in Cracks’ musique concrète influence. Drone music, avant-garde, industrial and experimental play their part in what’s an ambitious and pioneering, genre-defying soundscape.

Distant bells jingle as Glow’s arrangement unfolds. Soon, a wash of dramatic, droning music sweeps in. It reaches a crescendo, like waves breaking on a beach. As the arrangement drones, glows and rumbles, it captivates. Panning is used effectively, so that it sounds as if you’re surrounded by swells of the arrangement. Later, the arrangement trembles and thunders. Deep down percussive sounds quiver and shiver. Sometimes, it’s like a journey onboard a steam train, destination unknown. Bérangère Maximin, it seems, is taking you on a captivating and engaging magical, musical mystery tour, where seamlessly, she fuses disparate musical genres. In doing so, she creates a mesmeric musical painting.

Just like the two preceding tracks, A Day Closer has a cinematic sound. In the first few bars, a fly buzzes, a lion roars, a car drives off and the sound of worn vinyl can be heard. Later, a horn beeps, while a myriad of growls, cackles, crackles and thunderous rumbles emerge. This is one of Bérangère Maximin’s legendary “digital chimeras.” It’s a day in the life, courtesy of Bérangère Maximin. Using a tape recorder or sampler, she takes snapshots of everyday life, and incorporates them into her music. As you listen, you can’t help but pick out sounds. That’s why cinematic describes A Day Closer perfectly. Then a droning sound gives way to a hypnotic sound. Still, sounds drift in and out. Relentlessly, they toy and tease with your senses. Constantly, you wonder what that sound was? It’s a sonic roller coaster, as elements of avant-garde, drone, electronica, experimental and musique concrète play their part in an innovative, and cinematic collage.

OOP (Our Own Planet) is a twenty-one minute epic. This allows Bérangère Maximin to head off on another sonic voyage of discovery. As the arrangement unfolds, it has a minimalist sound. In the distance, it rumbles and buzzes. Slowly, it become melodic and dreamy. Still its minimalist. The arrangement washes over you. Suddenly, all is well with the world. Gradually though, the arrangement grows, chirping and cheeping. It’s akin to a walk along a deserted beach, as birds fly overhead. All the time, the arrangement is evolving. As feedback shrieks, Bérangère tames the tiger. Similarly, a myriad of sounds are knitted together. Even when the arrangement grows, becoming louder and more dramatic, Bérangère remains in control. She’s like a conductor, bringing a myriad of disparate sound together. This includes feedback. In a Hendrix-esque way, Bérangère tames this tiger. Chaos becomes order. Not many people are capable of this. However, not many people have the talent, vision and imagination that Bérangère has. She’s responsible for a soundscape that’s variously beautiful, challenging, dramatic, ethereal and lysergic.

No Guru Holds Me closes Dangerous Orbits. It bookends the album perfectly. A note is held, droning constantly. Meanwhile, another wash of ominous music arrives from the distance. Deep down, sounds bubble and rumble. By now, the drone is trembling, quivering and shimmering. All of sudden, gunfire can be heard. So can wistful strings. Someone crashes through a door. An animal growls. Later, a siren sounds. What sounds like looting can be heard. Much later, there’s an industrial sound. It sounds like an old printing press. By now, the listener’s imagination is running riot. Scenarios unfold before their eyes. Short stories could be written about this captivating and cinematic “digital chimera.”

Bérangère Maximin’s fourth album Dangerous Orbits, which was released by Crammed Discs, on 18th May 2015, is a fitting, and welcome, addition to the Made To Measure series. There’s a reason for this. Dangerous Orbits showcases the music of a musical pioneer.

Ever since she released her debut album in 2008, Bérangère Maximin has established a reputation for continually releasing groundbreaking music. Constantly, Bérangère releases music that’s ambitious, challenging and pushes musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes way beyond. That’s what she has done on Dangerous Orbits.

Without doubt, Dangerous Orbits is the most ambitious album of Bérangère Maximin’s career. Dangerous Orbits features five innovative soundscapes. They can also be described as captivating and cinematic “digital chimersa.”

These  “digital chimeras” take you on a musical journey. If you embrace the music on this journey, you’re richly rewarded. As you embark upon this sonic voyage of discovery, you’ve no idea where the destination is. It’s a case of trusting Bérangère Maximin. She takes you on a journey that’s Dangerous Oribits. All you need to bring is your imagination. As you listen to Dangerous Orbits’ five tracks, scenarios and plots unfold. That’s not surprising, as Dangerous Orbits has a cinematic sound. However, the listener has to provide the script. The beauty of this is, that each script is different. Everyone will pick and choose different sounds. They’ll also interpret sounds differently. This makes Dangerous Orbits a fascinating album, one that’s a captivating, cerebral and cinematic. It’s also a journey through through disparate musical genres. 

Listen carefully to Dangerous Orbits, and elements of ambient, avant-garde, drone, electronica, experimental, free jazz, industrial, musique concrète, psychedelia and rock all play their part in the sound and success of Dangerous Orbits. It features sonic explorer Bérangère Maximin creating music that’s challenging, cerebral, engaging and truly groundbreaking. So much so, that Dangerous Orbits is the most ambitious, cinematic and innovative album of Bérangère Maximin’s four album career.




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