February 17, 2011
Diatribes & Barry Guy
Cave 12 Orchestra 1 c12 o 01
Venice, Dal Vivo
D’autre Cords doc 5005
With advanced rock-influenced and so-called noise musicians increasingly adding free improvisation to their programs, a new hybrid is being showcased. At the same time the amount of sonic clamor added means that any resulting interpretation has to negotiate a fine line between incoherence and inventiveness. Although the volume of these sessions is somewhat stentorian, and their coherence sometimes spotty, the cleverness of the participants involved helps avoid major pitfalls.
Venice, Dal Vivo is a live session featuring two American and two French free improvisers. Drummer Joey Baron has been an integral part of projects by guitarist Bill Frissell and saxophonist John Zorn among others. Elliott Sharp, on both guitar and reeds here, is as apt to showcase own compositions with chamber ensembles, as be involved with free improv in smaller settings or present full-out blues-rock guitar solos with electric combos. French bassist Bruno Chevillon moves in many of those same circles, playing with clarinetist Louis Sclavis and guitarist Marc Ducret, for example. So does fretless guitarist and turntablist Franck Vigroux, another Frenchman, having worked with figures as disparate as the instrumental ensemble Ars Nova and harpist Hélène Breschand.
More unusual is Multitude, which features a collaboration between veteran British bassist Barry Guy and two young Swiss noise makers, known as Diatribes. Drummer Cyril Bondi is a member of different Jazz and so-called Post-Jazz combos, having played with bassist Christian Weber and pianist Jacques Demierre – another frequent Guy collaborator – among others. Member of Geneva’s Audioactivity Collective, laptop and objects manipulator d’incise (sic) has used his textural dislocation in situations featuring sonic explorers such as guitarist Keith Rowe or electronic instrument maker Norbert Moslang. Guy, of course, has, over a three-decade career, partnered other major Free Music players such as saxophonist Evan Parker,
Almost from Multitude’s beginning the overriding textures are abrasive, multiphonic and staccato. Bondi appears to be distractedly hitting anything he can – hard – spiraling pulses and harsh ricochets characterizing d’incise’s content; while Guy’s sprawling sul ponticello lines or steel guitar-like reverb help muddy the fray. Ironically, when altissimo reed bites from Benoît Moreau’s clarinet are added to the mix on “Corrosion du Possible”, the resulting textures sound neither more complete, complex, nor corrosive than those created by the other three on their own.
Guy, on the other hand, is more assertive on a track such as “Un Peu Plus Rouge”, where his resonating string picks and tough strums dominate. During his solo he grippingly works his way upwards to the bass’s scroll and downwards to its spike. However, with Bondi’s weighty beats resemble the thumps produced by clog-dancers, and the sequenced electronic impulses excessively droning, the bassist’s string strategy must also move with lute-like precision. Just as notably, his reverberating spiccato and sul tasto strokes also stand out among the electronics’ crackles, buzzes and grinds on the conclusive “Exil”. Suspicion remains though, that some of the contrasting string pulls may be the result of computer sampling playback.
If Multitude ends with timbres that are traditionally legato, then the concluding live track on the other CD is just the opposite. Entitled “Mitch Mitchell”, and named for the bass guitarist of the Jimi Hendrix Experience who died that day, the track is rife with heavy backbeats from Baron; repetitive thumps from bassist Chevillon; and ever-shifting patching and distorted flanges from the two guitarists. With LP-like scratches and sampled dialogue fed back into the mix, the knob-twisted, multi-string effects join with the drummer’s heavy drags and flams to create a solid sound block. After the piece climaxes with pseudo-blues licks, warped echoes and vocal shouts, Sharp name checks the dedicatee to the audience.
The preceding four numbers are a menacing admixture of ProgRock and advanced Fusion — that is if either of those genres would have a place for Sharp’s oddly linear saxophone shrills. Throughout, the guitarists concentrate on supersonic jet-like swooshes and oscillated twangs, as the drummer exposes nerve and martial beats and Chevillon’s bass licks shudder on the bottom. As solid and impenetrable in performance is “Veronese”, another defining track. Before the final downturned textural slurps, the piece showcased tone arm and needle scratches, turntable-propelled voices from album tracks, signal processed oscillations, whistling tones and crunching contrapuntal friction.
While no one should look to these CDs for melodic subtly, they do prove that clever riffs and textures can still arise from concentrated noise creations such as these.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Venice: 1. Acqua Alta 2. Cannaregio 3. Fondamenta Nouve 4. Veronese 5. Mitch Mitchell
Personnel: Venice: Elliott Sharp (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and guitar); Franck Vigroux (turntables and guitar); Bruno Chevillon (bass and electronics) and Joey Baron (drums)
Track Listing: Multitude: 1. Le Grand Jeu Financier 2. Le Poids des Humeurs 3. Corrosion du Possible+ 4. Pour Les Hommes du Port 5. Ne Plus Avoir Peur des Monstres 6. Un Peu Plus Rouge 7. Exil
Personnel: Multitude: Benoît Moreau (clarinet)+; Barry Guy (bass); Cyril Bondi (drums and percussion) and d’incise (laptop and objects)