D’une Extrême à L’autre
Mr Morezon 019

Pak Yan Lau and Lionel Malric

Duo Pour 454 Chordes

elNegocito Records eNR 083

Dual piano meetings have a checkered history in the improvised music world. Although innovators such as Satoko Fujii and Keith Tippett have experimented notably with the form, the instruments’ orientation towards harmony and away from abstraction have defeated others efforts. Two piano duos, one Belgian and one French, have found a way out of the conundrum by hewing to contrasts in keyboard preparation and musical direction.

D’une Extrême à L’autre aptly describes the situation expressed by Toulouse-based pianists Christine Wodrascka and Betty Hovette on the four preludes and maximized title track which make up this CD. Wodrascka is a full-fledge improvisers who has worked with the likes of Daunik Lazro and Joëlle Léandre, while Hovette, although she has been in ensembles featuring freer players such as Sylvain Kassap, is by inclination specialist in contemporary New music. Moving on to Brussels, Lionel Malric, who often plays with Brice Soniano, moves between notated and improvised sounds, while Pak Yan Lau has introduced her experiments with toy pianos to gigs with Peter Jacquemyn and Susana Santos Silva among others. Although all four play standard pianos here, Lau’s and Malric’s are prepared with implements.

Throughout the dynamic expression of passing patters and motifs from one to another that make up the sound miniatures on D’une Extrême à L’autre, Wodrascka and Hovette stake out antithetical positions even when in double counterpoint. One sticks to higher notes and the other lower ones, then switch. Meantime enough space is kept between the two expositions so that they don’t overlap. While timbral architecture isn’t definite, most likely the playful jumps and jerks, propelled with pedal work are from Wodrascka, while the hunting-and-pecking narrative, emphasizing micro-movements relates to Hovette’s processes.

Deeper and darker in execution, the 43 minute plus title track brings in more echoes from the fallback, soundboard and tightly wound strings than the previous pseudo-études. With the sometimes more individualized processes slightly more muffled the tendency towards abstraction and pure sound is intensified. Strummed chords and sympathetic vibrations poke out from the sometime kinetic program, but at the same time equal pressure towards creating sequences of impenetrable near musique concrete vies with the syncopation, Finally with jagged and tremolo repetitions seemingly bouncing off soundboard, piano timbres reach a point of affective concurrence

More attuned to what can be scrapped against and plucked from stopped strings, Duo Pour 454 Chordes presents a broader palate for innovations over the course of seven more equally timed selections. Ring-modulator like gongs, slaps and buzzes and even the suggestion that a metal comb is grooming the tightly-wound strings build up the kinetic interface with unexpected asides frequently on show. A track such as “lhotse, nuptse ou lhaotse” for instance is a sequence of whistles mixed with harsh buzzes sweeping in such a fashion as to produce maximum vibrato. In contrast, “shredded tears make misty clouds (on a winter day without jackets and gloves)” is more overcast, as high-pitched shrills from one keyboard meet up with processional chording from the other, with additional rasps reverberating from knife-like scratches on inner piano strings. Eventually repetative clatter and clanks from both players build up to culminate in metronomic swing. Thicker and harder syncopation characterizes “angel's hair to pull”, with one player popping what sounds like mallet-driven percussion onto the stopped keys and the other rummages inside to create zither-like plucks that add up to obtuse swing. With such theme and variation extensions throughout, the conclusive “les baleines du negoiou” suggests a realized instance of the earlier duets, wrapping up the syncopated scrapes across the sound field to make dynamic connection.

Paired piano prowess prepared or pristine allows a person to pick a preference without problem.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Extrême: 1. Obstination douce 2. Engagement 3. Tâ born 4. Éclats 5. D'une extrême à l'autre

Personnel: Extrême: Christine Wodrascka and Betty Hovette (pianos)

Track Listing: Duo: 1. Lost and found: turdus merula 2. l'obstacle 3. mount tune 4. lhotse, nuptse ou lhaotse 5. angel's hair to pull 6. shredded tears make misty clouds (on a winter day without jackets and gloves) 7. les baleines du negoiou

Personnel: Duo: Pak Yan Lau and Lionel Malric (prepared pianos)