Paed Conca/Stéphane Rives/Fadi Tabbal

Under The Carpet
Ruptured RPTD 009

Pascal Battus/Bertrand Gauguet/Eric La Casa

Chantier 1

Another Timbre at 55

Fresh, somewhat puzzling expressions by two French saxophonists who have previously staked their claim to quivering reductionist textures, characterize these trio CDs by Bertrand Gauguet and Stéphane Rives.

Alto saxophonist Gauguet, who in the past has established himself as an enthused explorer of adroit microtones alongside the likes of Viennese trumpeter Franz Hautzinger and Paris-based pianist Frédéric Blondy, fully commits himself to industrially oriented field recordings on Chantier 1. His associates are also French: Pascal Battus with his rotating surfaces and found objects and Eric La Casa, who brings microphones and recording equipment to the site-specific date. Meanwhile on Under The Carpet, soprano saxophonist Rives, who is now Beirut-based, appears to have replaced the deconstructed reed techniques he previously explored on his own and with numerous fellow reedists and electro-acoustic technicians, to almost exclusively concentrate on laptop computer timbres. Lebanese guitarist/sound engineer Fadi Tabbal and Swiss electric bassist and clarinetist Paed Conca join him here.

For the most part, while one can applaud both men for redrawing their sonic boundaries, each CD has some fatal flaws, with Rives, who has more-or-less abandonment of his distinctive saxophone style for interactive computer programming, faring worse.

There are points at which Under The Carpet’s uniquely titled 21 tracks appear to have completely abandoned the gritty tone science and sense of mutual adventure that characterize every recording of improvised music. As warm vibrations quiver, percussion intimations repeatedly thump and flanged guitar distortions snake across the connected sequences, the outcome seems more attuned to what one would hear on a stereo effects demonstration LP of the 1960s or a session of ambient timbres by Rock musicians in the 1970s. As the fungible and frequently undifferentiated intermezzos evolve, wave form washes which seem linked to the sound of ocean waves literally lapping against the shore predominate alongside keyboard sound extensions. Audible also are a few fleeting episodes of sinewy guitar whines, flat line reed expelling or rattling percussive clicks.

On the two penultimate tracks, “Late Night Tales” and “Rock Bottom”, the three players finally reveal a Necks-type juddering narrative alongside the environment of keyboard-oriented prettiness that has dominated previous selections. With field recordings of children gurgling as they frolic in the background, a steady, almost infectious beat consisting of Spanish guitar runs, wooden crunches and the swell of surf blends and moderates the performance, but is then instantaneously cut off.

Field recordings are the quixotic yet noteworthy aspects of Chantier 1, which as should be obvious, were captured at a building site in Paris. The challenge, artfully realized, was for Gauguet and Battus to integrate and situate their extended instrumental techniques within the day-to-day ambient sounds of a work site. The final five selections do so magnificently with the saxophone’s flat-line friction and strident spits plus various drones, rasps and scrubs from Battus’ instruments evolving alongside sawing, hammering and bumping noises which are heard in the course of a day’s construction work. Also audible are snatches of conversation and music from the laborers’ radios and mouths. In terms of sound you could define this as pure industrial music, eschewing the false melodiousness of Rock bands which use that name, and more importantly highlighting the real music of the proletariat.

That the last five tracks are so crucially definitive is irrefutable, begging the question of why the three musicians had to reconvene in a recording studio eight months later. The pristine atmosphere was supposed to allow the trio to reconstruct sonic memories of the work site. Although some appropriately violent grinds are audible due to a series of percussive pumping, and heavy reed vibratos, the necessity of recreating an industrial setting that already exists in reality is baffling and unanswered.

Longest and most pitch- and tempo-varied is the final track which adroitly stacks the rasps, rips, drones and disruptions of the workplace alongside angled spiccato patterning from Gauguet. With complementary drone and scrapes from found objects and some verbal interjections, La Casa’s recording sophistication concentrates the resulting granular synthesis in such a way that sounds literally pan from one side of the site to the other with no disruption.

Nonetheless, each of those previous tracks more succinctly confirms the working interface, with unaltered timbres arriving from sources, including hammer blows, saw buzzes, nail gun punches and the general ostinato-like drone of pedestrian motion and conversation. In each instance mercurial slides from Battus’ objects and rotating surfaces plus Gauguet’s alternating peeping and fading tones do fit tongue-in-groove among the other timbres.

Both trios here are experimenting with novel approaches to improvisations and must contend with these trials not working. That would seem to be the verdict for Conca, Rives and Tabbal; although Battus, Gauguet and La Casa do gild the lily of a hypothesis that works. Hopefully more definitive work will come from both combos in the future.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Chantier: 1. (9:14) 2. (10:25) 3. (05:57) 4. (6:01) 5. (5:35) 6. (9:21) 7. (15:35)

Personnel: Chantier: Bertrand Gauguet (amplified and acoustic saxophones and effects); Pascal Battus (rotating surfaces and found objects) and Eric La Casa (microphones and recordings)

Track Listing: Under: 1. A New Hope for Medical Treatment 2. There's No Picture Of The Band 3. Weird Sounds from The Kitchen 4. Water People 5. Motherboard 6. Procedures Concerning the Foreigners 7. Bourgeois Corporation 8. There's No One In The Accounting Dept 9. Sizes Performance and Capacity 10. Twinkle Twinkle (part 1) 11. Twinkle Twinkle (part 2) 12. You’re Invited But Your Friend Isn’t 13. Get Me A Pack 14. How Much Can You Fit On A Floppy 15. Footnote in Your History (part 1) 16. Footnote in Your History (part 2) 17. Footnote in Your History (part 3) 18. Radio Kongo 19. Late Night Tales 20. Rock Bottom 21. The Days of the Minitel Are Over

Personnel: Under: Stéphane Rives (laptop and soprano saxophone); Paed Conca (electric bass and clarinet) and Fadi Tabbal (guitar)