Hélary/Lonberg-Holm/Risser/Reed

The Sync
The Bridge Sessions TBS 02

Like Facebook, iPads and Uber, the Bridge sessions are a uniquely 21st Century conception. While recognizing the basic ephemeral nature of many ad-hoc musical groups, the Bridge builders aim for rapprochement among shifting ensembles of French and American players who record and tour for a while in both countries and then, like recruits serving tour of duty, return to their regional sectors. Case in point is this session, recorded in France following a short national tour. Representing the American side are cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Mike Reed, two Chicagoans known for their collaborations with a hotel register-like list of players on both sides of the Atlantic. Showing France’s tricolor flag are pianist Eve Risser and flutist Sylvaine Hélary, both Paris based.

While the Yanks have apprenticed with declamatory saxophone stylists such as Peter Brötzmann, Fred Anderson and Ken Vandermark, and the Gauls better-known affiliations have been with less frenetic stylists like flutist Michel Edelin and bassist Benjamin Duboc, The Sync’s three tracks are firmly planted in staccato urgent interface that can be traced back to 1960s’ Energy Music. Especially prominent is Lonberg-Holm, and latterly Hélary’s use of electronics which underscore the three improvisations with juddering buzzes and other harsh oscillations. Reed’s corkscrew-like percussion accents contribute to the rolling pulse, while Risser’s pressurized clanks and occasional internal string plucks that sound as if she’s launching a sound amplified archery exhibit, contribute to the galloping pace.

The cellist’s boundless string-stropping is matched in sonic savagery at selected junctures by the flutist. But like a fanciful Rapunzel in a family of snorting trolls her lilting flute trills and faux-lyrics soprano vocalizing – with incomprehensible lyrics – add an airy layer to the parfait-like concoctions which make up the collaborations. The final” Goppa” appears designed to create a satisfying dissolve from the percussive abstraction that constitute the two preceding extended improvisations.

Most meaningful is “Turbo”, The Sync’s supercharged centrespread. Spluttering processed drones lock in with drum scatter-slaps, fierce piano comping and cello string slashing to work up to an interlude that’s scorching and vivid as a volcano eruption. Textural abatement comes via a notable union of Risser and Hélary, where shrill keyboard pitches, flute chirps and vocal cries become so indistinguishable that it’s nearly impossible to decide whether the completion of musical thoughts comes from its originator or another instrument. Ghostly string echoes and irregular percussion asides threaten to turn polyphony into cacophony as if recording the proceedings from the shop floor of a metal production factory. Finally though, a low-pitched flute puff signals a near-melodic descend to a satisfactory connection.

Better constructed than most physical bridges, the high quality of this CD adds to the anticipation that may come from other instances of this Franco-American extension.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Golay 2. Turbo 3. Goppa

Personnel: Sylvaine Hélary (flutes and voice); Eve Risser (piano); Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello and electronics) and Mike Reed (drums)