James Darling, Gabriel Dionne, Lori Freedman, Diane Labrossse
Tour de Bras TDB CD 9002

Performance: ****

Sound: ***

Utilizing the skills accessible from legitimate musical training, extended instrumental techniques and the supplementary textures available from an electronic sampler, these “10 risky situations” balance on the edge between free improvisation and contemporary classical music

Involved are two instructors at the Conservatiore de Musique de Rimouski (Quebec): James Darling, who is also the cellist of Quatuor St-Germain; and Gabriel Dionne, the Conservatiore’s percussion head. They’re matched with two Montrealers: clarinetist Lori Freedman, known for her free improvisation collaborations as well as notated New music efforts; and Diane Labrosse, here manipulating the sampler, though she usually composes multi-media, theatre and dance pieces.

Overall, Labrosse’s instrument’s electronic pitch warbles and whooshing flutters plus the sinewy vibraphone resonation or ratcheting drum top pitter-patter from Dionne create background landscapes. In the foreground are the contrapuntal interactions of – or double counterpoint between – Darling and Freedman.

One or the other advances a motif – say low-pitched legato bowing from the cellist, or squeaking, altissimo smears from clarinetist – and with the response, aggregate themes and variations are developed – then electronics and percussion fill in any spaces. Two pieces “Parler tout seul” and “Marcher sur des oeufs” depart from this strategy with memorable results, as each extends virtuosity past the10-minute mark.

A darkly tinged nocturne, the former contrasts repetitive, low-pitched exhalation from the clarinetist with resonating tubular bell shimmers, until a conclusive cello vibrato provides the connective thread to make logical as well as musical sense of the tune. Initially as fragile as its title posits, the later piece unfolds on top of vibrating electronic crackle and drones plus pitter-pattering vibe and cymbal resonation, as both Freedman and Darling emphasize rigid instrumental timbres. Eventually, abrasive sul tasto string sweeps and high-pitched reed yelps sound unmodified, negating the delicacy of “egg walking”.

Listeners who welcome aural challenges are rewarded with the sounds of distinctive four-way interplay.

— Ken Waxman

OPUS Volume 30 No. 2