Concentrés et amalgames

Arthur Bull, Daniel Heïkalo

They hear each other, and respond well to ideas from each other’s encyclopedic mental understanding of guitar history. Foxy Digitalis, USA

Il suono dell’incontro tra Robert Johnson e Georges Braque. Blow Up, Italy

Playing together since 1996, Bull and Heïkalo’s new offering is a work of ripe and mature improvisation, often percussive, simultaneously introspective, questioning and scorching, without compromise and artifice.

Concentrés et amalgames features six guitar (electric, prepared, acoustic and classical) duets plus five other tracks in which Daniel Heïkalo and Arthur Bull’s guitars pair up with Heïkalo’s percussion, including a prepared jazz drum kit. Both musicians wanted to push further their rhythm experiments, textural work and real-time synergetic transformation of the material. The result showcases a duo that has gained in maturity yet remains just as implacable and uncompromising, refusing to bow to the latest sonic trends. This is direct, straightforward music.

CD (AM 151)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 151
  • 2006
  • UCC 771028115129
  • Total duration: 52:52
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 45 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press


Kurt Gottschalk, Signal to Noise, no. 46, June 1, 2007

Montréal’s Ambiances Magnétiques has released some 169 records since 1984 with a pretty remarkable batting record. The original members of the collective (including Jean Derome, René Lussier, Martin Tétreault and Danielle Palardy Roger) have for the most part continued to do challenging work, while younger musicians have been brought into the fold.

Tim Brady is a talented guitarist with a rockish sensibility and plenty of jazz chops. He loves his instrument the way Jasper Johns loves paint: thick and apparent. His 2002 release Twenty Quarter-Inch Jacks was, in that sense, wholly satisfying. As is, in a certain way, his new offering, GO. It’s diverse, it’s raw, it’s pretty, it’s precise. Four compositions of his own and four by others, all strong but as a whole uneven. The disc feels as if Brady is trying to show off many approaches and styles he can pull off. And pull them off he does, so well that it sounds as if it could be a compilation album.

Likewise pianist Gianni Lenoci’s wandering sextet record Sextant. At center, the group is a traditional enough line-up of keyboards, guitar, bass, drum and two saxophones, although the keyboards and guitars are sometimes electronically augmented. Two tracks not penned by Lenoci are Eric Dolphy’s Miss Ann and Morton Feldman’s Intermission VI. Lenoci’s pieces seem to follow the two worlds, skipping between minimalist and jazzy pieces, generally strong tracks, but ultimately seeming to be more a display of diversity than creating a unified feeling.

The same charge could be leveled against clarinetist Lori Freedman’s new CD, culled from three nights of live performances with different trios. The difference here is that the record is exceptional regardless of her motives. A set with guitarist Lussier and turntablist Tétreault is a fascinating, warm rumble. A matchup with saxophonist Derome and guitarist/percussionist Rainer Wiens is strangely moody with touches of spaghetti western. And with percussionist Roger and bassist Nicolas Caloia she explores quiet, extended-improv techniques and jazzier explorations. Despite the different sources, the album holds together surprisingly well.

A different sort of project is presented on the guitar duet by Arthur Bull and Daniel Heïkalo. It’s the sort of bashing-of-minds improv one would expect to find, at this point, in clubs and cafés around the world — busy, sometimes riotously so, and introspective, as if some personal space is being invaded simply by listening. Whereas the other discs ask to be listened to, Bull and Heïkalo seem forever to be changing the subject because a listener walked in.


Mike Wood, Foxy Digitalis, January 16, 2007

This is Bull/Heïkalo’s third release of solo guitar improvs, give or take some electronically altered sounds here and there. It is the interplay between acoustic and electric guitar that, with the addition of a “prepared drum kit”, create six diverse, virtuoso pieces that are moody, groovy and occasionally fiery.

Building off the delta blues and fusion guitar structures, La solution de l’énigme, Cobra Skin Necktie, and others ring with tones pulled from history and aim beyond it. Moment intense de répit coloré, like Afterthought for Ornette burn with purpose, in homage as well as with an ear for deconstruction of trad rhythms. Lonnie Johnson and Decoction bluesee are the highlights, in which both Bull and Heïkalo—the latter adding percussion—find their peak in rocking yet centered power.

Noted guitar players who hook up tend to disappoint their core fans; the results are usually more tentative and lame than other work. This is the third collaboration between Bull and Heïkalo, and they have moved well beyond any start-trip temptations to form a solid duo. They hear each other, and respond well to ideas from each other’s encyclopedic mental understanding of guitar history. (8/10)

They hear each other, and respond well to ideas from each other’s encyclopedic mental understanding of guitar history.


Dionisio Capuano, Blow Up, no. 104, January 1, 2007

L’armamentario di chitarre e percussioni (quest’ultime adoperate da Daniel Heïkalo) è funzionale ad esaltare i vari moods che ispirano l’articolata fantasia improvvisativa del duo. C’è, invero, un tono ubiquitario di percussività e si ha l’impressione di assistere ad una olistica tessitura di trame irregolari, - ora con la consistenza del filo metallico ora quasi seriche (Moment intense de répit coloré ed Elegy, che chiude restituendoci l’aria). Ma tutte le undici tracce rivendicano la loro unicità. Dialogo ispanico-cubista (La solution de l’énigme), confronto plastico corde-percussioni (Cobra Skin Necktie), brillante secchezza con attenzione alle risonanze armoniche (Lonnie Johnson), percussività e sfregamenti teatrali da momenti clou del teatro giapponese (Tunc) o da gamelan balinese (Picottements métalliques), disarticolazioni blues (Décoction bluesée). Piacciono la frenesia scabra tenuta al guinzaglio e l’apparenza d’estemporaneità che si ricompone in immagine dall’avviluppante irregolare geometria. Il suono dell’incontro tra Robert Johnson e Georges Braque.

Il suono dell’incontro tra Robert Johnson e Georges Braque.


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 555, December 7, 2006

Two canadian guitar improvisors joined hands once again. As a duo they play since 1995 and in 2000 it was time for their first duo-recording for Ambiances Magnétiques. Arthur Bull is a veteran from the canadian improv scene and played with Michael Snow, Paul Dutton, John Oswald, etc. As a poet he published three books. Heïkalo is an improvisor and composer. He also runs his own label: Heïkalo Sound Productions. Having a look in this catalogue learns that Heïkalo released many solo-albums that show his interest in a diversity of strings instruments and also in electroacoustic music. This label released also the second duo-recording of Bull and Heïkalo. So with Concentrés et amalgames were are listening to their third collaboration. Bull plays electric and prepared guitars and e-bow. Heïkalo we hear on acoustic and classical guitars, but also on drums and percussion. The album features six guitar duets and five duets for guitar and percussion. In their playing they show a great togetherness that results in great music. Improvised music at its best. Both gentlemen speak their language of free form and non-idiomatic improvising very well and give way here to some very communicative and musical interaction in the classical Derek Bailey-style.

Improvised music at its best.


Gabriel Bélanger, SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, no. 13:4, December 1, 2006

Cet album est le troisième enregistrement du duo formé par Arthur Bull et Daniel Heïkalo. Leur collaboration donne lieu à des improvisations renversantes. Les deux guitaristes partagent une même spontaneité et livrent des musiques à la fois intrigantes et déstabilisantes. Leurs amalgames de guitares et de percussions sont d’une maturité et d’une fraîcheur remarquables. Cet album intelligent s’adresse aux connaisseurs comme aux néophytes.

Leurs amalgames de guitares et de percussions sont d’une maturité et d’une fraîcheur remarquables.


François Couture, AllMusic, October 24, 2006

Concentrés et amalgames is this duo’s second album for Ambiances Magnétiques (six years after Dérapages à cordes) and their third overall (Deuxième Acte came out in 2002 on Daniel Heïkalo’s own cottage label). This is hands down their best effort to date. Clearly, Arthur Bull and Daniel Heïkalo have kept on refining their musical relationship. The level of integration between Bull’s fragmented “serious” playing and Heïkalo’s much wilder side is higher than ever. The latter once again shifts between acoustic guitar and junkyard drums, with the percussives being heard on more tracks than on previous albums. On the guitar duet front, two pieces stand out: La solution de l’énigme and Tassez-vous donc. The first one may be the duo’s best piece released to date, with its tightly woven interplay, acute listening, subdued melodicism and relentless supply of ideas. The second one features Bull playing deconstructed blues licks on electric guitar while Heïkalo pulls all the stops on acoustic guitar, indulging in a rare and oh so effective display of virtuosity. The guitar/percussion pieces are generally a lot of fun, with Heïkalo hitting and clashing all around while Bull weaves oddly distant narratives. In that particular setting, the two men seem to willingly ignore one another, letting serendipity work things out by itself - and it works. Concentrés et amalgames is indeed a concentrate of what Bull and Heïkalo have been doing for years now, and the 11 short pieces included here have been carefully selected to showcase the duo at its most focused. A must-have for fans of Derek Bailey, Fred Frith or René Lussier.

A must-have for fans of Derek Bailey, Fred Frith or René Lussier.