Le petit bruit d’à côté du coeur du monde
Vand’oeuvre VDO 0222

Musique concrète — using and rearranging man-made and found sounds into music — was definitely named and created by the French and others in the late 1940s. So it should come as no surprise than this long time, so-called serious music technique has been adapted by the French electroacoustic duo, Kristoff K. Roll as the underpinning of its poetic homage to West Africa.

Based on field recordings the two — Jean-Christophe Camps and composer Carole Rieussec — taped during a 1994 sojourn to, among other countries, Mali, Guinea and Senegal, this two-CD set is more than an auditory souvenir of their trip. For the next seven years after the journey, KK Roll edited, altered and mixed the tapes, adding actualities from Paris and elsewhere in France, plus created electronic and composed music to amplify the source. Ultimately, they mixed that result with the sounds of a string quartet playing notated music — and much more notably — the improvisations of French baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro.

It’s the conceptions and talents of Lazro, throughout all of the second disc and part of the first, which turns these two variations on a theme into, to use another French term, a tour de force. Not only that, but it also makes this project a stimulating listening experience for those who aren’t pure laine electroacoustians. To add to an understanding of the objective here the two discs — Variation 5 and Variation 7 — are packaged along with a CD-sized, 95-page booklet of photographs, diagrams and text in French, English, German, Spanish and Bambara, Mali’s main language.

An inspired choice as the main improviser, Lazro, is a veteran, cosmopolitan player whose associates over the years have included fellow Gauls like bassist Joëlle Léandre and bassist Didier Levallet; Britons like saxophonist Evan Parker and bassist Paul Rogers; Germans like drummer Paul Lovens and American such as saxophonist Joe McPhee, and drummer Dennis Charles.

Over the more than 68½ minutes on five tracks that make up Variation 7, his solo stratagems includes freak high notes, overblowing, split tones and single sounds retained for an inordinate length of time. He also specializes in protracted horn hisses, open and closed mouthpiece key pops, irregular and concentrated vibrato, and, of course, a few smears and flutter tonguing. During the course of piece like “Nuit cube” his sounds shoot from the very top of his horn to the bottom, often in a single breath.

Counterpoint to Lazro’s extended technique mostly comes from the machines and samples of KK Roll. Throughout, the foreground sax lines usually unroll on top of a carpet of droning electronic crackles and buzzes, like short wave static. It’s sort of what Keith Rowe’s treatments’ add to the sound of AMM. Intriguingly enough, the computer sounds are often at their most spacey when the actuality overlaying Lazro’s sax chirps or smears is human — the laughter of goat herding children near Bandiagara, the sounds of woodcutters near Djembering or the voice of the village chief of Djigui Bombo welcoming travelers. Other times altissimo reed shrieks will mix with tones manipulated from a recording of women from different African hamlets crushing millet, then fade into metallic squeals.

Approximations of string plucks and cymbal hisses created by the two KK Roll-ers come to the fore when a girl burbling in patois at the Senegalese-Guinea border seamlessly meshes with Lazro circular breathing and flutter tonguing. Soon, the entire sound picture soon morphs into the record of a Parisian pro-immigration demonstration.

Unless you’re familiar with French — or are prepared to hear voices as merely a collection of sounds — the almost 69 minutes of Variation 5 may be a bit more problematic for the uninitiated. Lazro and his saxophone techniques don’t appear until the final track. Otherwise, what you hear is such things as the voices of street venders plying their trade in a train station of Timbuktu or a veritable symphony of train sounds reaching a crescendo of mechanical movement and pealing bells as the locomotive traverses level crossings. As a variation on these themes and the drifting, calm of the waters near a bridge over the Bani River, is through-composed, semi-classical music by KK Roller Rieussec, interpreted by the violins of Noëmi Schindler and Sona Khochafian and the cello of Christophe Roy.

What’s really impressive is the final track where Lazro’s exploding firecracker of a solo — all great rolling gouts of basso and soprano tones — mates the trio’s strings sounds with those of a train quickly picking up speed.

A triumphant reconfirmation of Lazro’s improvisational deftness and KK Roll’s compositional and mix ingenuity, LE PETIT BRUIT is a landmark electroacoustic recording. At the same time, those unfamiliar with the genre should also be open enough to welcome unidentifiable sounds and voices mixed with the so-called real music.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Variation 5:1. La falaise de Bandiagara 2. La falaise de Bandiagara - Lécran 3. Le temps d’attendre/Modibo* 4. Matité à Tombouctou* 5. Jo 6. Le long du quai, La nuit 7. Sur la route 8. (1) Le jour, le long du train (2) Femmes qui pilent le mil* (5) La ballade du Bani 9. Train vers Bahia 10. Daouda 11. Zong petit bruit+ (2) Blanc*+ (3) Train vers Chicago+

Variation 7: 1. Nuit cube+ 2. Il jour+ 3. Forêt, calebasse+ 4. Journée avec fauve+ 5. Deux lunes planes+

Personnel: Variation 5 and 7: Daunik Lazro (baritone saxophone)+; Noëmi Schindler, Sona Khochafian (violins)*; Christophe Roy (cello)*; Kristoff K. Roll [Jean-Christophe Camps and Carole Rieussec {plus composition*}] (sounds from throughout West Africa, recorded in 1994, altered over a seven year period and mixed with tape, synthesizers, samplers, found objects, turntables and electroacoustic instruments)