Bertrand Gauguet / Frédéric Blondy / Martine Altenburger

April 16, 2012

Vers L’île Paresseuse

Creative Sources CS 182 CD

Frédéric Blondy & DJ Lenar

Play Mauricio Kagel’s Ludwig van

Bolt BR POP02

Departures from the concentrated minimalism that characterizes the Hubbub quintet, his longest lasting musical affiliation, Paris-based pianist Frédéderic Blondy is involved with much different strategies on these releases.

Still in the Free Music zone, Vers L’île Paresseuse is atmospheric and wedded to acoustic drones, with Blondy’s styling inside and outside the keyboard, is put to good use alongside the abrasive alto and soprano saxophone vibrations of Mulhouse’s Bertrand Gauguet and the alternately dissonant and legato stokes of Toulouse-based cellist Martine Altenburger.

Faux New music, Play Mauricio Kagel’s Ludwig van, is an off-the-wall homage to the Argentinean composer`s black-and-white film and another movie about deaf-blind people by Werner Herzog. Here Blondy’s pinpoint pianism is interspaced among audio snippets from the projections, including portentous lectures, pre-recorded music, and other vocal and instrumental tones sourced and mutated on the audio track by Warszawa, Poland-based DJ Lenar.

Undefined oscillations and drones which could arise from any instrument – or all or none – characterize the trio disc which exposes five tracks of polyphonic and phantasmagorical themes. Initially undifferentiated drones, as the pieces evolve the opaqueness gradually pull back to highlight individual instrumental textures. What seemed dense, concentrated and contrapuntal on “La montagne ne porte pas les nuages” for instance is eventually isolated as concentrated blows and pressurized plucking on minutely prepared internal piano strings; effusive shakes or wide kazoo-like blats from the reedist and wood-scratching as well as sul ponticello string swipes from the cellist.

Alternations between lyrical and jarring characterize the entire disc. On the climatic “Hypnotiseé sur une arête”, for instance, a continuum of carefully measured chording from Blondy turns into plucks and clanks on the strings as what was a delicate line from Gauguet becomes friction-laden, while Altenburger’s modulated bowing turns spiccato. At the same time a romantic undertone appears from the cellist’s mellow judders and the pianist’s legato keyboard note clusters. Only the saxophonist remains defiantly mercurial, with loud split tones, narrowed squeaks and final vibrating tongue slaps.

With the resonance on the final track barely-there, the trio’s definitive statement appears on the title track when concentrated sleight-of-hands leads the three to replicate electronic pulses acoustically. Made up in equal parts of reed whistles and metal rubs, angled string pulls from the cellist and rough rumbles and smacks against the piano’s wood by Blondy, at the end these faux oscillations give way to a cumulative rapprochement of balanced key clips, tongue stops and spiccato string swipes.

As unabashedly electronic as the other disc is acoustic, Blondy’s and Lenar’s creation for a Warsaw art exhibit is one of those projects metaphorically involving sonic mirrors reflecting other sonic mirrors that show refractions from still more sonic mirrors. Over the course of 17 tracks, the French pianist maintains his individual method of pulling deepened tremolo echoes from the keyboard and couples them with unique timbres plucked, vibrated and stopped due to the items affixed to internal piano strings. At the same time the DJ is mutating streams of pre-recorded audio into granularized pulses following primary identification. Among the sounds processed into abstraction are string sections and a piano soloist each playing romantic Beethoven themes; the sounds of clacking typewriters; undifferentiated children’s voices murmuring; different speakers – both pretentious and conversational – discussing theories about Beethoven’s music and other subjects, mostly in German.

Besides a selection which contrasts the music itself with a verbalized musicological hypotheses about it; other effective DJ transmutation include modulating and sharpening a lyric soprano’s tones into musical atoms; interrupting a pastoral musical interlude with the scrape of a needle against a bare turntable plus rainstorm sounds; and turning piano pumping into a unbroken drone.

The most effective communication between the DJ and Blondy occurs on a couple of tracks mid-way through the installation. Ending with percussion samples of mallets whacked against unyielding bowls, the interface contrasts the live pianist’s percussive glissandi with a recorded snippet of a Beethoven melody. Quickly enough the sample is reproduced at a different speed and then transformed into backwards running flanges, while the pianist’s precise playing remains.

A further refinement with contemporary electronic processes patches and mixes, Play Mauricio Kagel’s Ludwig van adds an additional sardonic layer – and other sounds – to what was already a burlesque of snobby classicism. For that reason the CD is fascinating listening. Similarly, Vers L’île Paresseuse captures three experienced improvisers at the top of their respective forms creating notable sounds that can’t be repeated.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Vers: 1. La montagne ne porte pas les nuages 2. Dans les plis du vent 3. Vers L’ile Paresseuse 4. Hypnotiseé sur une arête 5. Enclave nocturne et transitoire

Personnel: Vers: Bertrand Gauguet (alto and soprano saxophones); Frédéric Blondy (piano) and Martine Altenburger (cello)

Track Listing: Play: 1. The Key. A Shattering Story of Otto Tomek and his Companions (Musicologists) 2. The Table. Old, Exotic and Electric 3. The Locker. Him with Anecdotes 4. The Wall. One Page May 5. The Treadle. Edited without Sound 6. The Stand. Without Destroying his Property 7. The Movie. Beethoven is Modern 8. The Chair. Not a Rumba (Cuban) 9. The Needle. Whole as well as Speed 10. The Window. Enhancing Banality or Pedestrian Allusions 11. The Angel. Beethoven House Invented at Liberty 12. The Chair. Not a Rumba (Catalan) 13. The Frame. At Each Blur 14. The Movie. Spectator Beethoven (Bamsterdam) 15. The Deaf. Abolition by No Means 16. The Wheel. Opportunity to Execute

17. The Board. Largo in D minor from the Fifth Piano Trio, Op. 70 No. 1 in D major

Personnel: Play: Frédéric Blondy (piano) and DJ Lenar (turntables)