Lilas Triste
D’aurte Cordes D’A 031

Definitely and defiantly European and French, LILAS TRISTE (sorrowful lilacs), is the sort of quasi-free improv session that could only appear at this point in the 21st Century.

Based on the compositions and studio manipulations of fretless guitarist Franck Vigroux, who lives in Monastier, France, the CD blends elements of post-rock, electronica and free improv with reformatted sonic material and location recordings into nine distinctive tracks that could be termed improvised musique concrète. Furthermore Vigroux, who is a concert organizer as well as a member of world music and improv bands, fashions this audio creation using a minimum of tools. They are his regular and fretless guitars and laptop, Hélène Breschand’s harp and voice, plus lesser contributions from a narrator, a vocalist, and, on one track, a visiting American guitar hero.

Breschand’s experience encompasses interpretations of contemporary scores by Berio, Cavanna and Nunes, as well as performing improv with the likes of saxist Michel Doneda and guitarists Gérald Zbinden and Jean-Marc Montera. Because of this, she’s quite familiar with adapting her axe’s lush, all-encompassing glissandos from its 27 strings to the microtonal, quasi-slide vibratos of the fretless guitar, which Vigroux often extends with delay pedal, bottleneck and an E-bow.

At points her genteel, traditional lines reconfigure themselves into koto-like tones, but the multi-string articulation makes a perfect foil for buzzing guitar distortions and stratospheric squeals. As well as these sounds, Vigroux’s laptop allows him to oscillate between waves of whistling static and whizzing outer space-like tones. Pliant technology is also responsible for him showcasing different timbres that at various times resemble electric piano ripples, kettle drum and other rolling percussion explosions and undulating rock music-like reverb.

Perhaps that’s why the appearance of American guitarist David Fiuczynski of the Screaming Headless Torsos and Hasidic New Wave seems redundant. Any high-pitched, cascading guitar god decoration he adds could just as easily come from studio extensions or from Vigroux’s fretless guitar vibratos.

More generic to the creation are the voices of Cécile Rives and Fabrice Andricon. Rives, whose vocal designation has been described as moving between lyric and punk, mostly confines herself to the former role, except on the penultimate track. There her soprano range escalates to falsetto than to screaming, the better to meld with high-pitched, metallic guitar tones and intimations of church bell pealing.

She also reads a passage of prose at one point, though the majority of French language dialogue is from Andricon’s mouth. Vigroux’s more vigorous work can drown him out, however, and when Andricon is heard most clearly his orotund tones are sometimes a bit too blatantly theatrical for the presentation. This is most obvious on the title tune, the most straightforward foray into musique concrète. Mixing what appears to be the sounds of male American movie stars emoting, Spanish-speaking children shouting in play and flighty females conversing in French, the odd phrases that stand out from Andricon suggest a pretentiousness of execution if not intent.

Be that as it may, and despite the mixed results, the CD shows that theorists like Vigroux are on their way to articulating a new form of musical creation. But futher refinement is necessary.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Lilas 2. Ne Prends Pas Ma Bouche 3. Les arpenteurs+*4. J’ai quitt l’Europe 5.Triste Lilas 6. Sous Mon Oreille 7. Traversata 8. Letter à Louis+ 9. Marsala

Personnel: Franck Vigroux (guitar, fretless guitar and laptop); David Fiuczynski (guitar)*; Hélène Breschand (harp and voice); Cécile Rives (voice)+ and Fabrice Andricon (narrator)