João Camões/Jean-Marc Foussat/Claude Parle

Bien Mental
Fou Records FR-CD 12

Koch-Kocher-Badrutt

Koch-Kocher-Badrutt

Bruit No #

Like fusion cooking which mixes traditional and novel ingredients into a toothsome repast, the European trios here have worked out improvisational strategies that link traditional acoustic and contemporary electronic instruments. Perhaps as well, due to Mediterranean-focused people’s celebration of delectable meals, is why Bien Mental, served up by two French and Portuguese players is more piquantly appetizing than the single portion of austere improvisation from three Swiss musicians on the other CD. Sill, in the same manner that a holistic vegetarian meal can be enjoyed as much as a calorie-laden steak banquet, there’s much to recommend each menu,

Serendipitously, the ingredient-purveyors on each disc consist of three generations of improvisers. Veteran bass clarinetist Hans Koch, best-known for the Koch-Schütz-Studer trio, is featured on the Bruit session along with younger Swiss musicians, electronics-manipulator Gaudenz Badrutt and even younger accordionist Jonas Kocher, who has recorded with Michel Doneda. On Bien Metal, the veteran is French accordionist Claude Parle, who over the years has worked with trumpeter Jac Berrocal, drummer Makoto Sato and many others. Someone who engineers all of Joëlle Léandre’s discs as well as working as a musician, electronics maven Jean-Marc Foussat, another Gaul, takes centre spot, while the youngest player is Portuguese alto violin player João Camões, who has played with pianist Burton Greene and violinist Carlos Zingaro.

As with the background of the cooking and wait staff in a well-managed restaurant, the age of the participants here is as inconsequential as the color of the menu. On the Gallic-Iberian connection for instance the tonal blending is such that instrumental identity is commonly masked – a trait it shares with the Swiss disc – with the sonic clicks, judders and coating taking on as many persona as a shape-shifting spirit in a fable. Mixed throughout are staccato whistles from Camões’ fiddle, sputtering wriggles from Parle’s keys and intermittent bellows and spacey whooshes from Foussat’s equipment.

Building up to the extended lacerations which characterize “Déchirure”, the second track is like a showcase of progressively more elaborate architecture. Framed by electronic geegaws that initially spark like rounds of pistol shots and latterly throb as if anticipating further battles, “Á vingt ans” otherwise boomerangs between slurring shuffles from the accordion and jagged fiddle comments, until the two reach a frenetic climax, imaginatively soothed by electronic wave forms. Quivering accordion runs and concentrated electro-oscillations make the resulting polyphony nearly overpowering on “Déchirure”. But humanity is added when plaintive alto violin whisks piercing the interface like needles in a monochromatic garment. Finally, as if each person has his hands on the controller for a game of virtual reality, the result reach such a point of concentrated, elevated multiphonics that timbral release arrives only when Foussat mockingly or climatically adds field recordings of hymns sung by a celestial-styled choir, that presage a gravelly exit to silence.

Silence is as much a part of the fewer-than-34-minutes of the other disc. Lean cuisine compared to the full course meal of Bien Mental, it still manages to provide similar, if much less meaty, nutrition. Also like the other disc it’s often impossible to tell which sound wisp is related to which instrument. Initially Koch appears to be leading the improvisation as his aleatoric whimpers harshly squeal in an attempt to control the narrative like an alpha male in a wolf pack. However robust accordion flumes and castanet-like cracks from Badrutt tentatively bury the cries beneath makeshift pulsing. Oddly enough, before a subsequent serving of electro-improv reduces the backing to barely-there whispers, the bass clarinetist yaps a jaunty folk-like dance melody that’s briefly joined by Kocher’s whistling bellows and electronic pumps. Although aviary peeps and whistles from all concerned show up again in another part of the improv, it’s as if the desert course has proceeded the main one in a formal dinner. Except for a brief coda of vociferous reed trilling in its penultimate moments, the exposition is completed with all the protocol of grappa and coffee being offered after the meal.

Chillier but more focused, with Koch’s outbursts proving the unexpected spices in this lighter fare, the Koch-Kocher-Badrutt improvisation belongs in a different dining guide than the Camões-Foussat-Parle banquet. But just as different person enjoy different repasts, so individual listeners will want to sample one or the other of these sonic meals.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Koch: 1. 33:50

Personnel: Koch: Hans Koch (bass clarinet); Jonas Kocher (accordion) and Gaudenz Badrutt (electronics)

Track Listing: Bien: 1. L’autre bout 2. Á vingt ans 3. Déchirure

Personnel: Bien: João Camões (alto violin); Claude Parle (accordion) and Jean-Marc Foussat (electronics)