(1.8) sec. Records (1.8) sec. 005

Just how far can you stretch a strident, staccato line?

The three Paris-based improvisers featured on Plateformes are evidentially determined to find out, as their more-than-48-minute CD consists of parallel horizontal wave forms expelled in the same direction, without pause, and with few variations.

A shill, jumpy variation on minimalist music, the CD chafes rather than soothes – which is obviously its intention. By the same token however, it isn’t musical solipsism, any more than the vision of other improvisers or composers. Concentrate long enough on this aural grisaille and the infinitesimal tincture variations that go into the playing to make it three dimensional become progressively evident.

For instance no sooner do your ears get used to one, seemingly endless triggered envelope of sound from Stéphane Rives’ closely-miced soprano saxophone which vibrates in concentrated direction, that it’s then replaced by oscillating feedback from Hervé Boghossian’s electric guitar. Quivering with an intensity midway between an AC/DC electrical signal and flanged loops, it’s subsequently swapped for yet another triggered sequence of circular pulses from Matthieu Saladin’s amplified bass clarinet

Rives, who recorded a disc of reductionist solo reed tones in 2003, plays with other lower-case improvises like pianist Sophie Agnel and Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach. Marseille-born Boghossian has collaborated with like-minded players such as British cellist/electronicist Mark Wastell and German percussionist Burkhard Beins. Saladin is currently a PhD student in musical aesthetics at the Sorbonne and a member of the electro-acoustic band Archipel.

Built most of the time on unison triple counterpoint between the two reeds and the guitar, before variants of three-part harmony pan across the sound field, mid-way through, individual pitches break through the solid, near impenetrable drone. Quivering organ-like drones from the clarinetist, split tones from the saxophonist and the guitarist’s solid buzz stand out throughout. As the pulsed reeds squeakily inflate in volume, the affiliated partials that resonate along with the original frequencies are more obvious.

Not the first improvisers to generate similar concentrated pulses, the trio’s solid tone with benefits is particularly memorable, since the single-minded drone it creates as a signature continues to echo even after the CD ends.

The posed question is answered with notable sounds.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Plateformes

Personnel: Matthieu Saladin (amplified bass clarinet); Stéphane Rives (soprano saxophone); Hervé Boghossian (guitar)