Time has collapsed in on itself and we live in a world of wreckage, some of which still functions beautifully. The first chapter of Philippe Petit’s trilogy, ‘A Reassuring Elsewhere’, is an exercise in what he calls ‘retro-futurism’, where all that was pinned to a particular moment is brought forward in a novel way, clocks be damned. But all this messing with time has a playful, joyous dimension. As Petit describes ‘A Reassuring Elsewhere is a trilogy
that takes us through a looking glass in hope of reaching a wonderland where we feel reassured because nothing is as it seems…’
Here Petit pairs a Buchla 200 analog synthesizer with a piano (the grand piano at CNRR National Conservatory, no less), and elsewhere, a theremin and an EMS Synthi A nudge up against a prepared piano soundboard, where various objects, including clothes-pegs and materials (cotton, tissues paper, wood, plastic, rubber, metal and fabric) generate a percussive universe that hints at a cosmic order whose meaning might only be discoverable by other beings to come. Improvised and spontaneous, a ragged metallicism expands into a gentle and curious rattle.
The ’reassuring elsewhere’ that Petit presents is playful but groundless, vertiginous yet oddly calming. Petit’s synthesisers are paradoxically modernised by older instruments, and the classical rattles intimately with the recent future-past. The democratic randomness promised by the synthetic is tempered by hints of older forms. On Track Two, ‘Interlude’, for example, high-pitched bleeps encounter timid rattling while metal creaks and clanks.
The merest hint of a broken piano in the last few seconds flips us over into an order which disappears in a wisp. Petit’s dreamland is a kind of dignified escapism. Pianos crash on Part Three, strings twang, alien radio weaves in and out, and robot pixies wreck a merry havoc.
Petit’s work is very much in the spirit of Oscillations as a whole – experimental without being weighed down by the spirit of gravity; playing with time like a kitten with a spindle.