New Lousdzak

June 1, 2007

Human Songs
émouvance emv 1025

Prime example of what could be called POMO romanticism, the French octet New Lousadzak – distinctly named with an anagram of the members’ names – has created a notable CD with Human Songs. An ensemble since 1994, the band’s expansive instrumental prowess and pan-tonal sound textures manage to meld total improvisation with lyrical, sometimes vocalized dynamics that in the Gallic style reference traditionalism as much as experimentation.

Médéric Collignon gives voice to much of this, since, when he’s not spiking triplets with his pocket trumpet, he’s scatting or yodeling nonsense syllables over contrapuntal vamps from saxophonists Daunik Lazro and Lionel Garcin, plus the steadying pedal point of tubaist Daniel Malavergne. If Collignon provides the rustic near-melodiousness for the two suites that make up the session, then atonal slurs and irregular pitches mark the sax solos. With their distorted, highly electronic note sprays guitarists Rémi Charmasson and Raymond Boni add unexpected contrapuntal dynamics to many tracks already bursting with polyphonic extensions; so do the wailing Balkan harmonies from composer Claude Tchamitchian’s bass and the concussive scrapes and ratcheting of Ramon Lopez’s oddball percussion.

Still, the humanistic balancing act is maintained throughout. If it appears that extended instrumental techniques are going to push tunes into the miasma of rubato atonality, a vocal chorus or a powerful ostinato from Malavergne, Tchamitchian and Lopez shove the music back to a march tempo that would have been familiar on a Napoleonic parade ground. (A video of the band performing live also is embedded on the disc).

— Ken Waxman
For Whole Note Vol. 12 #8