The name of this disc and much of its liner notes are in French, but, on Knud Un Nom de Serpent, Marchetti’s compositional language is far more exotic than his native tongue. In a novel application of Marchetti’s usual musique concrete approach, Knud Un Nom de Serpent relies heavily on field recordings of ethnic music, creating a mystifying mélange that continually confounds listener expectations. Birthed, in part, from Marchetti’s fascination with shamans and medicine men, Knud Un Nom de Serpent aims high, with Marchetti shooting for a manner of transcendental effect through collage. The cliché of music as journey is, by now, limp from overuse, but if this disc takes the listener on a trip, it’s not one that some will want to take more than once.
Knud Un Nom de Serpent was originally released in 1999, and, 10 years later, it seems no easier to get a handle on. This reissue brings together gamelan, the female orgasm and the lonely sounds of crickets into an amalgam that dispels with any predictability, save for the 10-second silences that separate its tracks. The exploration of human expression dissolves the borders between countries and environments, a roughly cobbled-together Pangea of sound in which throat singing and chanson are next door neighbors, and previously disparate musical forms are thrust upon (and into) one another with vigor. It’s not simply the disc’s volatility that can make it so unsettling, though; within a seemingly random series of sounds, Marchetti creates an atmosphere that can be rather chilling. He avoids the obvious hallmarks of aural evil, but through the power of the unfamiliar, unidentifiable and unexpected, Marchetti puts the listener in an uncomfortable place.
There are many ways in which Knud Un Nom de Serpent is a difficult listen, and it’s not wholly unlikely that even dedicated fans of demanding music may find the disc somewhat impenetrable. Marchetti’s ideas comparing composers to medicine men are interesting, but this disc may be too jarring to elicit the effect he intended. Still, Knud Un Nom de Serpent will strike a chord with some as more than a curiosity: like nearly any challenging artwork, this disc will turn off far more than it seduces, but those who fall under its spell may find it to be quite entrancing.By Adam Strohm (Dusted Magazine)