How Does This Happen? is a new release of Ambiances Magnétiques label. Album was recorded by another one great trio — John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet) and Éric Normand (electric bass). The collaboration of two great French jazz improvisers and famous, talented and innovative saxophonist John Butcher is the key of bright, passionate and interesting sound. Musicians are individual and independent — their music is based on different traditions, ways of playing and formation of musical language. Each of them has a different point of view, unique improvising style, expressive and driving sound and innovative way of improvising. The traditions and innovations of European, French and American avant-garde jazz are connected in this album. Collective improvisations have vibrant, bright, tremendous and intense sound. It’s filled with surprises, pleasant and gorgeous themes, weird sounds, experimental musical decisions and spontaneous ideas or bursts of energy.
How Does This Happen? is adventurous and passionate. The compositions are based on avant-garde jazz and free improvisation. Musicians are experimenting in all fields of musical language. They pay especially huge attention to instrumentation’s and expressions section. The music is bright, evocative and filled with ambitious ideas, fresh ways of improvising and innovative playing techniques. Three outstanding avant-garde hazz nasters create individual and colorful compounds, who are strongly contrasting with each other. Rich musical language is based on polyphonic and multi-colorful musical pattern, abstract and multi-layed facture, colorful and solid melodic line, dynamic and intense rhythmic, bordering dynamics, unusual timbres, special effects and stylistic variety. These cases effect original, bright and evocative sound. Open form and free improvisation is the main element of all compositions. Musicians dive into emotional, sensible, suprising and touching free improvisations, intense and vibrant bursts of energy, expressive solos, passionate sparkls or subtle, silent and relaxing episodes. Saxophones by John Butcher are moving and expressive. The melodies are based on spontaneous musical decisions, improvising in the spot, bright and moving explosions of energy. The improvisations are moving and innovative, filled with passionate and expressive melodies, remarkable solos, dizzy and charming passages, enchanting timbres, special effects, shrieky, sharp, outrageous or weird sounds, modern harmony and furious repetitions of certain rhythmes or sounds. John Butcher is the master of suggestive and innovative improvising, He switches together uncompairable ways of playing, breaking and repetitive sessions, sharp sounds, crazy ideas and shocking decisions. His improvisations are based on creative and modern point of view, fresh ideas, curiousity and wild imagination. Furious and wild bass clarinet by Philippe Lauzier make an interesting combo with active and expressive saxophones. The music also is filled with intense and vibrant melodies, roaring blow outs, vivid and dizzy solos, moving and rising culminations, breaking sessions and blowing riffs. Philippe Lauzier is a creative and masterful improviser, who manages to fuse together all different compounds in one place. Gentle, vivid, expressive, furious, wild, whistling, blowing, turbulent, passionate, roaring, luminous or simply beautiful compounds are joined together in gentle and suggestive way. Special effects, weird timbres, innovative ways of playing, marvelous playing technique also make an effort to whole sound — it makes it much more active, moving and attractive. Electric bass keeps the solid bass line and rhythmic section. It’s leaded by Éric Normand, another one great improviser. Musician tries out extended and new ways of playing, fuse them with the traditions of 1960’s avant-garde jazz, as well as progressive, contemporary, modern and other jazz styles. Intense rhythmic, breaking and repetitive sessions, aggressive series, moving and passionate melodies who gently fit with furious bursts of energy, wild and expressive passages, sparkling solos, turbulent culminations or deep, tight and stable tunes of bass line. Musician joins together numerous of different sounds, timbres and rhythms. All three musicians are great and innovative jazz masters. They don’t hesitate to use shocking, crazy or scandalous ways of playing, innovative ideas of improvising, eclectic or weird combos and other innovations of avant-garde jazz. Music is fresh, evocative and bright.
This record comprises the performances of two Phill Niblock scores, Disseminate from 1998 and the title track, first conceived in 2011. For the occasion, the composer worked with Quatuor Bozzini (Clemens Merkel, Alissa Cheung, Stéphanie Bozzini, Isabelle Bozzini) with the aim of multiplying the string quartet’s voices and overall muscle. The procedure is synthetically explained in the liner notes, so I won’t bother repeating it here; moreover, Niblock’s ways of assembling his cascading microtonal drones are (hopefully) well known to the readers of this blog. Let me just remind the brightness of a man who, armed with a mere laptop, still manages to produce unlikely levels of psychophysical correspondence with the invisible forces of our environment.
This version of Disseminate stands among the mightiest episodes met over decades of acquaintance with Niblock’s material. Its character is extraordinarily “in your face”; the self is symbolically invited to get out of the way, an army of shifting pitches developing a totality of quivering intensities striving to reach the perfection of an all-encompassing embrace. Baobab starts with a quasi-tonal affirmation, its enormous strength actually giving a chance to believe we’re hearing a steady chord. With the passage of time, the congenital jarring features start breaking through: right there the fun begins, internal rhythms and oscillations projecting a sense of cerebral and spiritual completion that no spoken or written word will ever be able to equal. The whole appears at once imperial and utterly instructive.
Aside from the usual advice — namely, playing this music loud for an improved functionality of the adjacent upper partials — one can only dream about the average brain finally learning to decode and accept the complexity of a mass of contiguous tones, regardless of someone’s dictations on “consonance” and “dissonance”. As the initiator himself said, it is what it is; the spaces may be completely filled by the sounds, but the ultimate outcome is the silence of the mind. Kudos then to Quatuor Bozzini, who finely rendered an essential concept of Niblock’s vision: the instrumentalist — a fundamental injector of sonic fluids — is nevertheless a means to an awesome end.
The Canadian music series on Another Timbre is a thing of multifarious wonders. Ten portrait CDs championing music by Linda Catlin Smith, Martin Arnold, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Christopher Mayo and several others. The scope, the focus — it’s all compelling. No blunt conclusions are drawn about what Canadianness might mean in music, but I’m intrigued by Martin Arnold’s suggestion that it might have something to do with “slack” — by which he means a loose relationship to tradition, an open space upon which to make things new. Many of the discs in the series deserve mention here but Cassandra Miller’s music has knocked me sideways. Bold, kind-hearted, wistful, brave, simple, sophisticated… her string quartet About Bach is miraculously beautiful, with a bright, lonely violin drifting resolutely above the most gorgeous shapeshifting chorales.
When you’re operating on the bleeding edge of music, the old rules don’t precisely apply.
New instruments, new methods of playing them, new combinations — all those characterized HMMH’s concert at IMOO on Sunday. It was not a show that one could judge based on its fidelity to a musical text — it was, after all, completely improvised — nor was there a specific style or genre that it adhered to.
It was as much visual as aural — what exactly is making that sound? And it was almost as much of a process of exploration for the audience as it was for the musicians, as one listened to and absorbed the music that was being born in the moment.
What it did have in common with more conventional music was the intensity and collaboration which the musicians brought to this performance. While only 45 minutes long, the show was very dense and multi-layered. One could never be sure one was hearing or seeing everything that was going on because each musician was doing so much.
Four musicians: three from Montréal’s active creative music scene and one from Germany, comprise HMMH. Saxophonist and vocalist Joane Hétu is best known as co-leader of Ensemble SuperMusique; strings player Pierre-Yves Martel is a prominent composer and investigator of new sonic possibilities; German tuba player Carl Ludwig Hübsch is a frequent collaborator with Martel; and pianist Émilie Mouchous makes electronic instruments.
For this concert, Mouchous played a vintage 70s-era KORG synthesizer; Martel primarily played his viola da gamba but also had a zither in front of him and blew into tiny, high-pitched whistles; and Hübsch was mainly on his tuba, which he muted with unconventional items which included a large metal mixing bowl, a white styrofoam hemisphere, a cylindrical cookie tin, and a white fluffy soft ball. He also had a collection of small metal bowls on which he created ringing metallic sounds; he would occasionally scrape a plastic cup along the edge of his tuba bell, or attach an uninflated balloon to his tuba and lightly strum it, letting the sound resonate through the instrument.
Hétu had the largest number of possibilities. Besides her alto saxophone and her voice, she could pick from a whole table filled with noisemakers, hand fans, bells, whistles/pipes, a small metal whisk, graters, a metal bowl, plastic balls, marbles, a long corrugated plastic tube, balloons, and more. She chose to play only some of these objects, primarily the fans, the long tube, and the noisemakers.
The audience was extremely quiet and engrossed throughout the show; the two times that new listeners opened the outside door to enter caused a noticeable stir. There was a considerable dynamic range, going down to near-silence. I appreciated, though, that HMMH, unlike some other improvising ensembles I’ve heard, carefully avoided really loud sounds or a cacophony; instead, the overall volume was controlled and the sound nuanced.
The ensemble opened with a resonant lament. Martel sang into his viola, and Hétu began chanting, letting her voice ring back and forth in a formal and invocatory manner. Over muted tuba and light zither, Hétu continued to call out and then sing wordlessly over flapping plastic percussion. Others joined in to create an ambient rush of sound, with foghorn tuba on the deep end to bright metallic clinks and Hétu’s falsetto signing on top.
While there were certainly conventional musical sounds — the underlying drone or quiet lines from Mouchous’ synthesizer, the melodic or scraping bowing of Martel’s viola, and light and dark tuba lines, even more noticeable were the non-musical textures. Crumpling paper, rattles, static, electronic whines, noisemaker squawks and flapping, tapping, and high-pitched vibrations from singing down a long plastic tube and then twirling it, all contributed to the sound. At one point, Martel bowed his viola through what appeared to be a sheet of plastic or thick cellophane, muting the sound and creating high-pitched sounds and rustles.
It was a constantly-shifting river of sound, often unworldly, and occasionally even eerie.
HMMH has just released a new album, Fleur de Chaos, and had it for sale at the show. While I couldn’t say that anything they played on Sunday was precisely from that CD, the music certainly had the same thoughtful, cooperative vibe as what I had heard from the album.
What was particularly interesting about the show was how well the musicians incorporated their unconventional sounds into the more standard melodies and rhythms they also created. The music stayed compelling because it was not just a scattershot of effects, but rather a musical conversation that built upon Western musical traditions.
It was a fascinating look at possibilities, and the music which can be created by imagining different ways to use one’s voice, different ways to play, and different methods of creating sound.