Hubbub Whobub
Matchless MRCD 80

Self-controlled and self-directed, CDs by this Swiss/French microtonal quintet usher listeners into a unique soundworld which they either accept or not. Doing so isn’t an onerous task, but Hububb – consisting of saxophonists Jean-Luc Guionnet and Bertrand Denzler, pianist Frédéric Blondy, guitarist Jean-Sébastien Mariage and percussionist Edward Perraud – is self-contained in its sonic imagery. Like the United Kingdom’s AMM and Australia’s The Necks, Hububb is one of those groups which negate easy comparisons to other musicians or bands.

Honestly, this two-disc release may be more of the same distinctive Hububb music, but it’s also masterful in delineating how by building on aleatory impulses and extended instrumental techniques, entrancing sounds can be hewed out of a collection of textures, pauses and illusions. The main demarcation point between the program on CD 1 and CD 2 is that “Who”, the former, takes up the entire disc, while the latter is divided between two tracks. In another comparison to the Brit and Aussie bands, Hubbub has developed an extrasensory sense of time. In other words the music on either disc, which clocks in within 30 seconds of each other, unrolls only so long as it doesn’t wear out its welcome.

One reason for the precise and energetic freshness in collaborations among Hubbub members is that since the group it was organized in 1999, it has never been the players’ sole means of expression. Guionnet, for instance, plays in the Free Jazz trio The Ames Group as well as creating organ-based and electro-acoustic sounds. Denzler, the only Swiss among four Gauls, often performs solo saxophone concerts and is part of Trio Sowari with percussionist Burkhard Beins and software sampler Phil Durrant. Blondy’s playing partners range from saxophonist John Butcher to synthesizer player Thomas Lehn. Mariage has worked in a variety of formations with, among others, bassist David Chiesa and saxophonist Bertrand Gauguet; and Perraud has played with stylists as different as bassist Benjamin Duboc and trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo.

During the 43¼-minutes of “Who”, the five sluice, slide and shift from one series of intonation movements to the next. They rarely repeat a sequence, but through polyphonic pointillism subtly transition among different pitches; from languid measures to those taut with tension. Along the way Blondy stretches and plucks his instrument’s internal string-set as the guitarist strums and scratches his six strings. While Perraud’s accompaniment is restricted to single cymbal pops, irregular ruffs or measured drags, the two saxophonists create reed layering that exposes strident, but chromatic whistles and buzzes, eventually positioned as repeated, quivering lines. Subsequently as these arcing smears are fattened by low-frequency piano key clinks, widely vibrated guitar licks and stick-on-cymbal scratches, the hitherto solid, slow-moving drones begin to splinter. Reed rigidity turns to glottal punctuation and snorts from the tenor saxophone and a quivering vibrato from the alto saxophonist. Next, intermittent string twangs, bass drum thumps and cymbal clinks expose overall staccato and multi-tonal textures which gradually strip layers from the cumulative buzz to dissolve individually.

Actually recorded two months previously, the two sections of “Bub” are, if anything, more mesmerizing. From the top, dense saxophone tone clusters move linearly while confronting ringing pops from the massed strings and almost electronically-directed, percussion friction. Although reed stridency at points reaches the fortissimo density of Energy Music, practically leaving an aural afterimage, the sax attack again gradually subsides into separate paths: one buzzing altissimo stops and jet-plane-like flanges and the other muted with moderated pants and lip-stretching squeals. Moving with a singular logic, the climatic section matches wood-rending cracks, triangle smacks and gentle tongue gesturers.

Created to fit the band’s singular vision and designed for those willing to suspend demands for strict and distinct harmony, melody and rhythm, Hubbub’s musical vision must be approached with an open mind. Immersing yourself in the performance however determines that there are many more connected textures than imagined in this sonic experience.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD1: 1. Who CD2: 1. Bub 1 2. Bub 2

Personnel: Jean-Luc Guionnet (alto saxophone); Bertrand Denzler (tenor saxophone); Frédéric Blondy (piano); Jean-Sébastien Mariage (guitar) and Edward Perraud (drums and percussion)