Jean-Luc Guionnet-Seijiro Murayama

Window Dressing
Potlatch P211

Seijiro Murayama-Stéphane Rives

Axiom for the Duration

Potlatch P111

Practically unknown except in his adopted country of France – and likely in his native Japan – Seijiro Murayama is a remarkable drummer whose percussion prestidigitation is usually conjured using brushes, sticks, contact microphones, a single snare drum and one cymbal. As these exceptional discs demonstrate, in spite of operating on a microtonal playing field with equal absorption in the qualities of silence and intonation, the results are mesmerizing. More specifically neither CD sounds remotely like the other, although a saxophonist is his partner on each.

Concerned with interdisciplinary links among sound, dance, painting, literature and other arts, Nagasaki-born Murayama initially played in noise-rock bands such as Fushitsusha and A.N.P. Today however his improvisations are often in the company of guitarist Taku Unami, synthesizer player Uta Kawasaki or trombonist Thierry Madiot. A similar autodidact and multi-disciplinarian, Paris-based alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet composes electronic pieces, plays church organs and is a member of the bands Hubbub and The Ames Room. Beirut-based French national Stéphane Rives has made solo CDs and has recorded with international improvisers such as harpist Rhodri Davies and synthesizer player Wade Matthews.

Murayama’s and Rives’ raison d’être may be improvisational solipsism, but neither brings a cynosure approach to Axiom for the Duration. Evolving mostly in linear yet parallel statements, the two adjust to prolonged silences while each outputting timbres that range from strident fortissimo cries to hushed, dissolving textures. Quivering and pressurized flat-line squeals often issue from Rives’ horn as Murayama responds with the friction created by raucously rubbing a cymbal across the drum top for maximum timbral displacement. During the first track, when at one point the polyphonic textures reach a crescendo of staccato scrubbing, an overriding drone pushes other sounds into silence. Mercurial resonance, shrill whistling and unaffiliated, tones take up so much of the sonic surfaces as sound-motions from one instrument blur into the other. Should the ring-modulator-like gonging distilled onto the tracks, for instance, be ascribed to one or the other? Climatic resolution arrives with the third untitled track as febrile rubs and altissimo shrills become more intense and diffuse. Rives’ bagpipe-chanter-like vibrations operate in tandem with Murayama subtle motions which could as easily be produces by a string set or a vibraphone. As time sense is stretched, individual percussion grinds and drum top rubs on one hand and circular breathing and raucous animal-like cries separate participants during their broken-octave duet.

Murayama’s rhythmic strategy with Rives is based on multifaceted responses to frequently recurring straight lines. In contrast, while harmony also doesn’t concern Guionnet and Murayama on the one extended and three shorter pieces that make up Window Dressing, the alto saxophonist expels a series of reed variations that throw the percussionist off base. More than half-an-hour of improvising “Procédé” is the defining track. As the drummer advances the duet with paradiddles and shuffles, the saxophone tone undulates from faint reed buzzing to a kazoo-like bray. In round robin-formation each musician takes sequential turns producing solipsistic tones. More tonally flexible than Rives, Guionnet’s playing encompasses multiphionic harmonies, reed-biting smears and nasal juddering. His tongue slaps are balanced by Murayama’s brushes doing a delicate sand dance on the drum top, with the finale divided between Guionnet’s distant spetrofluctuation plus full force drags, flams and ruffs from the drummer.

Other tracks such as “Procession” and “Procès” promote the same mixture of gentle and brutal actions divided among tones ranging from near-silent to stentorian. Along the way Guionnet blows air through his horn without touching the keys, exposes tongue pops and lip-pinched vibrations while Murayama rattles sides and scours the drum top. A final track, “Procès” balances duck-like cries plus staccato reed peeps from the saxophone with rolling drags and wisps from the drummer. Lastly what sounds like a rubber ball bouncing on drum skin mixed with continuous tongue fluttering from the reedist paradoxically suggest both a conclusion plus a willingness to start all over again.

Unjustly unknown internationally – like too many French improvisers – these CDs should introduce a wider audience to Murayama’s inventive percussion power. Both Axiom for the Duration and Window Dressing are worthy of aural exploration, although Guionnet does have an edge over Rives when it comes to perceptive duetting with the drummer,

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Window: 1. Procédé 2. Processus 3. Procession 4. Procès

Personnel: Window: Jean-Luc Guionnet (alto saxophone) and Seijiro Murayama (percussion)

Track Listing: Axiom: 1. Axiom for the Duration 1 2. Axiom for the Duration 2 3. Axiom for the Duration 3

Personnel: Axiom: Stéphane Rives (soprano saxophone) and Seijiro Murayama (percussion)