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Nervure Magnétique



“Nervure Magnetique’s two mountainous tracks shock by bleeding unpredictably out of audible range at both ends. Because track two for example, does not present expected musical progressions beginning with a methodical test pattern format in which basic analogue-sounding tones of varying duration and texture are laid down in guileless succession at a drastically low volume leaving you vulnerable to the sonic assault at 12-odd minutes, you are never sure where to set your listening parameters. You must either accept the loss of the shadow or highlight detail or excavate from these extremities with the volume control. Ottavi is not the type of experimentalist so inclined to subtly expand the listeners perceptual horizons as to forcibly prise them open. The experiments he conducts on you have a similarly gaping range from the fuck you boy’s noise to a subtle strategy of loosening his grip on the listener’s attention so perilously with the low tones at the end of track one that you forget what it is you are supposed to be engaged in. Ottavi knows how to manipulate with the direct physicality of sound. In track one, simply with a slowly building increase in volume, reedy contemplative tones become pressing and forbidding, and effects a complete inversion in scale around the listeners body, moving from it is in you, to you are in it.” (?)


Julien Ottavi: Nervure Magnetique CD Julien Ottavi is a composer of computer music based in Nantes, France. The genres that influence his work are those of the musique concrete and contemporary noise movements. The combination of these to extremes creates intense and vibrant sound world to excite and shock the listeners senses. Ottavi regularly collaborates on projects with Keith Rowe, Jerome Noetinger, Erik M, Christophe Harvard and other. Nervure Magnetique is his first solo release. This CD contains is another Sigma Editions label release. Both mammoth tracks start softly and gently leading into unexpected explosions of sound pushing the boundaries of the audible frequency range at both ends. The danger behind the daring structure of these pieces is the shock one gets when the painfully harsh leap in amplitude sets in after a long lead-in of extreme quiet and delicate electronic textures. The first track leads in with a pulsating bass tremble with a gentle chime-like overtone floating above. This develops gradually over the course of the first five minutes building tones and volume levels and gradually becoming more and more distorted as we head towards the hardcore noise section at approximately 12 minutes. This noise section is one of the most beautifully orchestrated noise passages one might ever have experienced as you can still hear the breakthrough of different material and bursts of ripping electronics bleeding through the sound barriers in a more carefully produced and intelligent way than one might normally expect. This becomes more and more extreme over the next eight or so minutes, gradually calming and suddenly throwing us into complete and unexpected silence without warning making you think that something has finally blown up your player. Then sound softly creeps back in with quite analogue type sounding electronic with rumbling bass and quiet distorted rhythms playing off each other and gradually developing into tone passages again. Pure silence opens the second track with reed-like tones appearing from either side sneaking in slowly after about 45 seconds. Small electronic textures are flowing in and out throughout the first 12 minutes or so before one, after a few seconds of almost silence, is shockingly again thrown into extreme noise. The reed-like tones take over again providing sweet relief from the earlier exciting assault on the ears. Various tones develop slowly and eventually breakdown into shard-like granular cracklings. An intelligent experimental exploration of the sonic listening capabilities of the human ear mixing intense beauty with intense harshness and violence of sound. (JR)

VITAL WEEKLY : number 387


This name might not be very well-known but Julien Ottavi played with people like Keith Rowe, Jerome Noetinger, Erik M and others. He is a computer (read: laptop) musician from Nantes, France and this Sigma release is his first solo CD. Due to it sheer length - over 72 minutes - and the sheer volume - mostly very loud, sometimes very soft - it’s not an easy release to digest. The first of the two untitled pieces open up in a nice drone like manner, but after some ten minutes things explode and Ottavi starts working the volumes up to an intense level. This lasts then for quite some time, but when it collapses it is really quiet for a while. If you have turned down the volume in the very loud bit, you won’t hear a thing for some time, but beautiful drone music is hidden there. The second piece is even more beyond the level of audibility, with very soft sine wave tones (somewhere at minus thirty DB) but after twelve minutes it sounds very abruptly at plus thirty DB - a true shock tactic, leaving the listener unsure where to put the volume dial (best is to keep your hand attached to the volume while listening to this). As abruptly as it started, so it stops to continue at a nicer level with crackles. Both pieces are extreme plays with the notion of silence and noise and Ottavi does this quite well. My main objection is that he needs a little too much time to tell his story and that maybe one piece would have been enough. My pick would be the second piece, which is the better worked out one of the two, offering the most varied sound palette. (FdW) Address:

Grooves Magazine

On his first solo CD, Nantes-based laptopper Julien Ottavi unleashes a searing exercise in extremes, a masterwork of sonic bait-and-switch fleshed out in stunning detail. Nervure Magnetique is a sharp-minded hybrid of Francisco Lopez’s distant rumble and Kevin Drumm’s mudslides - an elegant and vicious perceptual workout that fluctuates with predatory grace between near-inaudible throb and arterial bleeds of static. Unlike lesser noise-boys, Ottavi never sacrifices economy of gesture for the thrills of senseless dynamic excess. Instead, he teases the attention into a dangerously unstable present with guile and cunning, lulling the ear with bowed-glass drones before cinching a barbwire noose around your auditory nerves. Even the durations declared for the album’s two pieces function as canny traps, with each stretching for several nerve-wracking minutes past its stated close.

The 72-minute runtime might suggest a longwinded streak in Ottavi, but Nervure Magnetique lays out his agenda with single-minded efficiency. In the first twelve minutes, Ottavi gathers shimmering overtones over long filaments of humming bass, teasing out tense pulsations before lashing out with a torrent of molten processor grime. The remains of the drone hang skeletal amidst the swirling debris, squirming and folding as Ottavi heaps crushing drifts of overloaded white noise around it. A simulated speaker catastrophe quells the storm, leaving crackles and hums to reconstruct memories of the initial upsurge amidst the wreckage. The second track explodes the divide between delicacy and brutality into a gaping sonic wound. Ottavi twirls ribbons of filtered bell tones at the threshold of audibility for an aching interval in advance of a cilia-scorching outburst whose intense onset is rivaled only by its wheeze-inducing withdrawal. Finely honed prickles and clusters of trembling sine waves are gradually ground down by a silence that feels downright unnatural in light of the addictive discomforts that came before. Fortunately, repeated listens to little to dull the album’s bite - Ottavi’s renders his visceral thrills so tautly that their terrible beauty remains intact after dozens of listens. Beautiful, harsh, and haunting - a staggering debut from one of experimental music’s newest leading lights.

Joe Panzner


Julien Ottavi Nervure Magnetique Sigma Editions 2003

Julien Ottavi doesn’t care about me. This computer musician has crafted a work of sonic extremes so listener-unfriendly, so enervating and tense, that I’m shaking as I write this. Nervure Magnetique is a two-track, 72-minute blast of energy funneled through inscrutable computer processes and spat back out as lumbering multilayered drones and hushed tinkling bits of static. The contrast between these two extremes is what makes this album so compelling (and often torturous).

The first of these untitled tracks begins with a reverberating, circular bass drone that slowly, steadily gains both volume and density as time crawls along. At first, as omnipresent as the sound is, there seems to be at least some space in it, and the drone is almost pretty, like a finger circling around the rim of a half-filled water glass. The drone changes almost imperceptibly, new layers of processed tones seeping into the warm mix, until the drone is oppressive and all-encompassing, infused with crackling static to disrupt the previously sterile proceedings. Pattering beats of interference skip pebble-like across the smooth surface of the drone, like Morse code transmissions being received through the vast ether of space. As the track grows ever denser, the crackling static becomes darker, threatening to burst like thunderclouds into an outburst of Merzbow-like noise.

It never does quite make it to that level, though the grainy glitches do eat up the more melodic drone for a while, leaving just a faint, ghostly hint of its presence lingering in the air, perhaps not even present anymore at all except in memory. Even at this intensity, this is a very nuanced form of noise, never just an impenetrable wall – below the explosion are submerged all manner of beautiful sounds, for those willing to listen a little deeper. At around twenty minutes in, the background begins to sound slightly like a church organ solo, though with the density of sound in the foreground, it’s never clear what’s real and what’s imagination. Then, after over twenty minutes of this, Ottavi cuts everything off, and out of a tense moment of silence emerges a bubbling, vibrating bass drone of intense quiet. This soothing lull is just as full of detail and nuance as the louder moments, and the extreme contrast between this section and the one that preceded it opens the ears to anything.

The second track is even more severe, beginning with soft and sporadic shards of computer noise, at a level too low to be heard without turning the volume way up. At this point, Ottavi’s sense of humor becomes apparent, as twelve minutes into the song a massive explosion of sound crashes out of the silence without any warning. Somehow I keep forgetting about this, and the result is the sound of a Mack truck crashing into the side of my house, with me frantically scurrying to bring the volume back to manageable levels. Once the shock of the moment wears off, the remainder of the track – a ferocious stream of static-y noise, followed by another lull of gentle percussive electronics – is as packed with detail as the first, though the contrast in the extremes is far more sadistic.

Nervure Magnetique is laptop improv at its most exciting and perverse. Ottavi’s music is incredibly complex, both beautiful and challenging. Just make sure you keep your finger poised on the volume control.

Reviewed by: Ed Howard Reviewed on: 2003-12-18

The cdr I will never release



number 449

Guitarplayer Julien Ottavi is alike Mattin, a radical mind when it comes to using computers and music. The text of this CDR rambles about CDRs, computer and the disappearance of sound information, when storing sound on a computer. Apperentely the high and low frequencies get lost, so all of the music on 'The CDR I Will Never Release' is based on the more extreme frequencies of sound. Be carefull cranking up the volume, even when things seem to be at a very low volume. But that sometimes spoils the fun of listening. I can imagine that in a concert situation this music would work really well, providing the sound system is great. But at home one is struggling with setting the volume right all the time, to make it sound right in the best possible way, even when the bigger part of this release moves in similar volumes. Extreme noise music, which, oddly enough isn't really loud per se. Fascinating music, if just for the concept.

Paris Transatlantic (Jan.2005)

Mattin's w.m.o/r label continues its uncompromising journey along the fringes of sound art where ultra loud and ultra quiet find common ground with this 65 minute composition by Nantes-based sound artist Julien Ottavi (of Formanex fame). Using only extreme low and high frequencies, Ottavi's work is based on the premise that sound recorded on CDR (as opposed to commercially produced CDs) is destined to deteriorate. So is your health, I imagine, if you have a sound system powerful enough to play this one loud: the low-end frequencies gradually induce a feeling of unease and claustrophobia verging on nausea. By the time the thing fizzes into life after the 54-minute mark, you're ready to acknowledge defeat, if you're not already lying on the floor in a pool of vomit. As anyone familiar with this publication will know, we're hardly in the business of covering Britney Spears here, and the idea that music always has to be trivial poppy fluff is about a million miles wide of the target, but, call me old fashioned, I like to find something in the music to enjoy, or at least respect, and with Ottavi's offering, it's hard. Elio Martusciello's Aesthetics Of The Machine last year on Bowindo explored similar avenues of extreme registers, but somehow came off as more musical. For Degradable Music is another example of a project where the realisation of the concept is nowhere near as interesting as the concept itself.—DW

Autsaider issue 5 (Ukrania)

Film director Jean Luc Godard once said, “I don't think you should feel about a movie. You should feel about a woman. You can't kiss a movie.”

In 2004 sound artist Julien Ottavi released a defective CD-R suicidally titled “The CD-R I Will Never Release.” The content of Ottavi’s disc is a good pretext for us to once again vainly reflect upon the sensual and non-sensual – this time in music.

The surface of the CD-R’s side, which sound is recorded on, is either scratched with abrasive paper, or spattered with acid.

When playing back the disc, headphones on, the listener leaves the everyday world overwhelmed with sounds and submerges into a much depleted sonic environment. Instead of listening to birds pleasantly singing outside or cookware clanging, or kitschy patriotic chants from the kitchen radio, or the truly avant-garde polyphony of an apartment block’s waterworks, or, at least, Ottavi’s peer, Dion Workman’s album “Ching” (Antiopic, 2003), which can somehow substitute for birds singing, dogs barking, and water pipes whining, instead of all this rich variety, we are offered to deeply listen to lazy automatic low-frequency pulsing of sound, during 50 minutes, pulsing that at a moment slows down, at another accelerates, and to finish it by listening, during 10 minutes, to the way some rough rattling surges and firms up, seemingly caused by defects on the disc… As it can be expected after the 50-minute sub-bass sound “fasting”, all these jerks, clacks and breaks that we can hear in the end, start to sound almost like a banquet of compositional complexity and unpredictability.

In the booklet that comes with the CD-R, Ottavi uses the word combination “sound piece” instead of “music”. However, we should not concern ourselves with selection of terms. Boundaries between what “may” be referred to as “music”, and what “may not”, have already been washed away a long time ago…

No, the question at issue is not music, but automatism and its relation to sensuality.

The case is such that well-run automatism as music is terribly boring. The existing pop music, either guitar-based, or electronic, is all grounded on this well-run automatism. Positioning itself as humane music, it is not sensual at all.

A poorly-run, defective automatism is a different story. This automatism attracts the listener tired of “humane” music and of the emotions imposed by it. The sound flow damaged by glitches is far from being “humane”, but high-quality crackling and crashing simply overwhelms with sonic sensuality. Noise goes bald-headed and completely drags in the grateful listener.

The sounds which Julien Ottavi has recorded can hardly be placed in this (intently simplified) picture. On one hand, there’s no pretension to automatic “humaneness,” on the other, it lacks exciting brokenness, frayedness (except for the ending part). These sounds are too dosed, they smell of a recipe, and they stay motionless too long, yet not long enough to mesmerize.

This inhumaneness is too sterile and pedantic, and too unobtrusive to muffle humane thoughts in a human head.

Andrij Orel

etudesauxhertz II

osc.jpg Julien Ottavi- etudesauxhertz2, [mp3-only release]

Nantes-based laptopper/perucssionist Ottavi’s recent Nervure Magnetique was easily one of the best records of the past year-a sucker-punch scary mixture of ghostly bell tones, nail-biting silences, and insanely dense pools of white noise delivered with Scanners-grade head-exploding intensity. Unfortunately, Ottavi’s web design skills fall well short of his compositional gifts. Locked deep inside the tangle of strange Babelfish French-to-English conversions and aimless links of his homepage is a collection of live recordings and studio experiments that document pre-Nervure sketches. This twenty-minute suite in sine waves and speaker saturation best captures Ottavi’s penchant for sonic extremes and well-placed spatial detail. With only a handful of oscillator tones modulated through speaker clipping and precise layering, Ottavi kinks sine waves into barbed wire or winds them into slow, ringing drones-his arrangements aren’t musical in any conventional sense, but a rigorous sculptural exercise. Like the shortwave static etudes of his occasional collaborator Dion Workman, there’s a touch of cruelty in this investigative project: cool, rational and seemingly unconcerned with the frailties of the listener. Visceral, affective stuff for the strong of ear and heart.

Stylus Magazine (The styPod)


early recordings :


Last week I had the pleasure to see a four piece group from France called Formanex. They played at Extrapool, the small stage here in Nijmegen. About six months ago they also played there, performing various pages from Cornelius Cardew's Treatise. This is a large graphic score of lines, circles, blocks, with no instructions. Formanex are set out to play pieces like this. To do so, they use prepared guitar, percussion, small and found objects and electronics. At the concert last week, they presented a CD with recordings made at the previous concert (and housed in one of Extrapool's fine printworks, since they have printing studio too), which I sadly missed. Something which I regret very much. It's hard to say wether Formanex fully improvise their music, which I find hard to believe. They rely on a score and have surely discussed among them how it should be played. With such open scores as Treatise, it's impossible to say if the performance is 'rightly' performed or not. Comparing concert and CD, I am bound to state that Formanex master their skills very well. Ranging from soft passages to very loud ones, drones andloose end sounds sitting next to eachother as opposing contrasts, this partly composed, partly improvised recording is a joy for the ear. The curves they played are shorter then say AMM, which is a comparisation that can easily be made on the fact that Cardew was a member and the almost identical set up, who seem to take much more time to develop throughout a piece. Maybe Formanex, who could have been the children of AMM members, are influenced by zapping in front of a television? (FdW)

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GOO Tableaux (Fibrr Records / Metamkine)

Le Grand Orchestre d’Ordinateurs est un projet du collectif artistique nantais exigeant et activiste Apo 33. L’association, qui fête cette année son 8ème anniversaire, englobe la promotion et le développement de la création sonore expérimentale dans une réflexion sur le rapport à la technique, au savoir et à l’espace : autant de problématiques implicitement induites par cette scène, de la musique concrète à la poésie sonore en passant par l’improvisation. Apo 33 a le mérite de ne pas se contenter de les évoquer ou de les survoler, mais s’y confronte à travers des actions pédagogiques, des initiations, des ateliers pratiques et théoriques, envisageant à raison les pratiques artistiques comme moteur dans l’invention d’un autre possible c’est-à-dire d’autres manières de vivre et de communiquer. Le label Fibrr, prolongation matérielle des activités d’Apo 33, présente Tableaux, du GOO.

Minérale et organique, la matière sonore se déploie dans l’espace dans un long souffle, empreint, en résonance, d’une constellation fourmillante et fuyante de micros événements. La forme évanescente des Tableaux propulse avec une intensité foudroyante un paysage torturé, des cris arrachés aux plantes, des torsions de lumière. L’espace devient palpable, et l’épaisseur évolutive des couches sonores attrape l’oreille dans un soubresaut de larsens, de craquements, de bruits blancs, de grésillements, de clicks. Le son respire, palpite, se convulsionne pour s’abandonner enfin au monde. Puis vient la trêve, l’apaisement, un désert qui porte en chaque grain une rugosité harmonique, dans un flux continu qui déverse progressivement une atmosphère liquide et envoûtante. La sonorité coriace de cet opus admirable enveloppe le corps jusqu’à l’oppression.

Léa Lescure le 26/05/2005 (source)

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"misenlian" (Erstwhile records - 2005)

By Erstwhile

Julien Ottavi / Dion Workman GNU/Linux operating systems and free audio software

Julien Ottavi and Dion Workman are two of the most extreme of the younger wave of sonic explorers, pushing the boundaries of sound and art. Ottavi hails from Nantes, France and Workman from New Zealand, but their overlapping concerns and aesthetics have drawn them together, and misenlian contains the results of their initial collaborations.

Julien Ottavi studied sound and photography at the art school of Nantes. He is a founding member of Formanex, an electroacoustic quartet performing graphic scores from the 20th and 21st centuries, including works by Cardew, Cage, Wolff, Feldman, Brown, and Ralf Wehowsky, as well as the founder of the Nantes-based experimental music organization Apo33 (responsible for running the label Fibrr among numerous other activities). His most notable previous release is the superb solo CD Nervure Magnétique (Sigma Editions, 2003).

Dion Workman began his career in the improvised rock trio Thela, along with Dean Roberts and Rosy Parlane. After Thela split up, Workman and Parlane founded Sigma Editions in 1998, beginning an exploration of electronic music that has continued to this day. Workman is a meticulous composer, with a Feldman-like sense of development in his pieces, best represented on disc by the perfectly sculpted Ching (Antiopic, 2003), a work which won him the 2003 Max Brand Prize from the Austrian Cultural Forum.

Workman was introduced to Ottavi's work in 2001 by Parlane, who suggested that Ottavi record for Sigma Editions after seeing him play in London. Later, Workman invited Ottavi to play a series of US shows, where they performed solo sets on the same bill and grew to be good friends. After being invited to record as a duo for Erstwhile, Ottavi came to the US for a month in 2003 and the two performed and recorded constantly. Based in Workman's Brooklyn apartment, the duo literally improvised for days at a time - when they slept, the computers continued to generate sound, with changes in the PureData patches triggered by microphones placed outside the apartment - and intermittently recorded the results. Ottavi and Workman directly followed up this intense recording period with several long-duration live performances, each set lasting between 3 and 6 1/2 hours. By the end of Ottavi's stay in the US, the duo had amassed approximately fifty hours of recorded material, which they later selected and shaped into misenlian.

misenlian unites Workman's glacial, continuous pacing with Ottavi's love for challenging the limits of dynamic range, resulting in a single remarkable piece as jarring and unsettling in its own way as the fluorescent colors of the CD packaging.

by Jeff Siegel (stylus Magazine)

People like Julien Ottavi and Dion Workman just drive me up the tallest tree with jealousy. Ottavi was once in Formanex, a formidable electro acoustic quartet specializing in the graphic notations of Cardew, Wolff, et al. He now runs Apo33, a collective of experimental musicians brought together under a loosely Situationist rubric to travel the world and raise very smart hell. Workman (with Rosy Parlane) was a founding member of Kiwi improvisers Thela, and now resides in New York, running what appears, by all accounts, to be a label—sigma editions—while scribing for local art-theory rags about free music and the political power of Giving It All Away.

Living vicariously through dorky academics is my own problem, and it leaves aside the fantastic pedigrees, solo and grouped, that these two have put together over the years. Workman, in certain circles, is best known for his 2003 work, Ching, winner of the Max Brand prize, and a truly harrowing bit of electronic insecticide. Formanex's 2001 recording of Cardew's “Treatise” ranks up there with some of the best interpretations of that work, and brings the piece to the brink in ways you wouldn't think possible.

As such, misenlian, lowercase title aside, brings with it much baggage, and much expectation. The principals have an idea to invade our space and take us on a journey. And those of us who have been on this journey know full well where it's going. At the beginning, there is silence, and we can hope for the hefty, skittering, mini-epic build of Ching, or at least a towering cluster-fuck in the vein of Francisco Lopez. We continue through cricket-static chirps and shortwave-a-likes, through Workman's patented crystalline high-end chirps, and through a slow, almost-imperceptible build. There are occasional outbursts of frequency that are possibly a little too nice, and sine tones precisely in the Toshi Nakamura/Sachiko M wheelhouse.

And, sure enough, halfway through, the static tones begin pulsating, that crystalline high-end chirping gets louder, and a harsh crunch slides right into the middle. The whole business gloms like moss to a rock, carries on for a few minutes, then descends into a distorto-breakdown that bears a striking resemblance to the first few seconds of the latest Out Hud album. Yes, really. And then we're right back where we started, with a low-end throb and pittering rhythmic elements dropped in, for shits. This actually begins to redeem the previous 25 minutes, as the duo hold this steady for most of the remainder, keeping a balled-up tension that would stay with you if misenlian didn't just fade out weakly.

I know I'm not getting jaded of electronic or electro-acoustic improv; there have been too many exemplary, forward-looking records recently for that to be true—just check any Erstlive release—but these two veritable young turks of the game are latching onto the only things that constitute formula in this realm.

Reviewed on: 2005-07-19


The project of the collective pizMO is to develop factual & event musical moments quasi-improvized and programmed starting from digital audio, electronic and data-processing devices. The concert is for them a kind of temporary “camping” (free laptop party or open audio streaming) - acapamentos -, a temporary interface of their non-stop activities on the networks and the medias which they explore (radio, edition, p2p, streamings, etc). During these events, they join friendly real time video collectives. PizMO, acronym of Intermittent Project of Objective Musical Zone, revolves around a grid made up of other projects like Formanex,,, radiolabo, picNIC, PacJap, Apo33,, Tiramizu, etc.

→ Yannick Dauby, Jérôme Joy, Julien Ottavi. Excellent trio d’ordinateurs où la personnalité de chaque musicien est conservée. Musique électronique cannibale, minimale, paysagère, pirate… “Le projet du collectif pizmo est de développer des moments musicaux événementiels quasi-improvisés et programmés à partir de dispositifs audio-numériques, électroniques et informatiques. Le concert est pour eux une sorte de “campement” temporaire (free laptop party ou open audio streaming), une interface momentanée de leurs activités en continu sur les réseaux et sur les médias qu'ils explorent (radio, édition, p2p, streamings, etc.). Lors de ces événements, ils s'associent à des collectifs vidéo temps réel. (metamkine)

pizmo website :

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