1. Phil harmonie 1
2. Philharmo nie 2
3. Phi lharmonie 3
Released in 2012 on Another Timbre, Chantier 1 juxtaposed two studio recordings with five from a construction site tasked with erecting the Philharmonie de Paris. The idea was that Pascal Battus and Bertrand Gauguet would try and recreate the on-site recordings in a "neutral, silent space" by memory. This served as an interesting exercise that ultimately pointed to the richness of the construction site's own sonic identity, especially since the studio tracks were unexpectedly placed at the beginning of the album. In Chantier 2, Gauguet wrote that the chantier had its own autonomy, and that his and the others' presence had little effect on its "life." As such, there was little intent to "musicalize" it; to do so would undermine the detailed sound world already present.
Much like the five on-site recordings of Chantier 1, Chantier 4 finds the same three musicians submitting themselves to the location they're in, acting as mere participants of something much greater. Eric La Casa ensures that the editing and mixing are never ostentatious, highlighting the work of the musicians without obfuscating the music of the building site. In the liner notes, Battus makes an interesting observation: "As the building rises to remain, the building site rises to disappear." This description of the chantier as a transitory place where various people, sounds, and cultures could briefly intersect is a romantic one, and at the very heart of these recordings. Just as many performances take place in the Philharmonie today, the three musicians recognize how their current situation is no different: the creation of these concert halls is amusingly preceded by—and constructed with—a concert hall of its own. The absence of studio recordings narrows the listeners' focus on this revelation.
Chantier 4 begins with a few seconds of silence: an unexpected delay of sound that highlights the magnitude of space soon presented on the record. This initial burst of noise establishes the musical palette of the following hour, immediately allowing listeners to question whether the material being heard is sourced from the musicians or the workers. Since Battus and Gauguet improvise with the various crashes, buzzing, and chatter that frequently appear, much of the album's enjoyment is derived from how their instruments blend in with the current soundscape. Even so, there are plenty moments where their presence is more obvious—like the incessant clanging sound that Battus employs on "Phil harmonie 1," or the squeal of Gauguet's alto sax during a conversation in "Philharmo nie 2"—and made more memorable due to displays of playfulness.
The most compelling aspect of Chantier 4, however, is the decision to include numerous breaks in sound. This is accomplished in two distinct ways: a momentary silence, and an abrupt cut to a different recording. One is tempted to believe that this structural device is a mirroring of the compounding slabs of reinforced concrete and metal that make up the Philharmonie itself (further hinted at by the word's bifurcation in all three track titles). The moments in which we hear these breaks are, at times, impossible to miss (namely, whenever silence is utilized). Still, they never deter one from perceiving everything as a unified whole. Interestingly, there is at least one point where the presence of a break is ambiguous. Near the beginning of "Philharmo nie 2," Gauguet's sax loudly howls and it's unclear whether he simply decided to interject or if the instrument is utilized like mortar to join two different recordings.
Regardless of the actual truth, this uncertainty is in line with another purpose for the segmented structuring. As noted by the liner notes, it's meant to represent the "differentiated spaces both listening and memory pass through." The construction site has disappeared, and it's not possible for Pascal Battus, Bertrand Gauguet, or Eric La Casa to experience the "performance" they took part in ever again. In affixing different recorded segments, they've constructed an album that mimics the hazy but evocative act of remembering a specific musical event. In a sense, they've condensed the conceit of Chantier 1 into something more compact and self-sufficient. More than ever, the chantier feels alive.