Jean-Sébastian Mariage / Catherine Jauniaux / Xavier Charles

February 2, 2022


Ayler Records AYLCD-168

John Butcher/Sharon Gal/David Toop

Until The Night Melts Away

Shrike Records SRL 001

Although it may be a cliché, it appears that those folks brought up within the purview of a Romance language have a predilection towards material suffused with amorous overtones. And that’s true even when it comes to improvised music. On the other hand, harsh Anglo-Saxon discourse eschews romantic inferences. While subject to debate contrast for example lyrical French chanson with brutal English rock songs. So while each of these voice-and-instrumental improvisation sessions is compelling, an unconventional, as many of the noises heard are eccentric and grating, L’amour, the Gallic session, as its title confirms has a quasi-lyrical bent, whereas the British Until The Night Melts Away is harsh unvarnished creative music.

Including theatrical readings from the erotic Marguerite Duras novel that inspired it, L’amour is a collaboration among Belgian actor/singer Catherine Jauniaux, who performs with other rule-breaking musicians such as Christian Marclay and two French ones. Clarinetist Xavier Charles is known for his membership in Dans les arbres and guitarist Jean-Sébastien Mariage is part of the Hubbub band. Meanwhile the London session is a live concert featuring British multi-instrumentalist David Toop, also a communications professor, who has performed with associates as different as Henry Grimes and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and saxophonist John Butcher, who has played with just about everyone in free music, The two are joined by British interdisciplinary artist and vocalist Sharon Gal, who has worked with, among many others, Phil Minton and Yoni Silver.

L’amour is divided into 11 tracks, most of which have Jauniaux intoning the words in idiomatically correct French, though with most phrases a little puzzling for the non-French speaker. However the key to this trio interpretation is that her thespian elucidation adds an undercurrent of erotic suggestion to the performance. At the same time this doesn’t stop her from vocalizing syllabic scat and quirky mutations that add to the program’s evolution, Accompanists and partners, the guitarist and clarinetist use slaps, squeaks, puffs and patterning to accentuate or abbreviate the surrounding motifs, with Mariage’s shaking flanges adding electronic echoes to the sequences. Chickadee-like reed squawks and stutters as well as fluid string rumbles and percussive pops enhance instrumental interludes, when the three aren’t creating in triple counterpoint. Eventually vocal yelps, cries and whines supersede verbalization. With that post-coitus point attained, Jauniaux’s sighs and peeps plus Charles’ plain air blowing and Mariage’s cascading frails plus crackling static dissolve into pure sounds and confirm the ending.

On the other CD’s relatively brief single track, Gal’s vocalizing never as much brushes against a word or a phrase – in any language. Instead her contributions move from bellicose howls to voice undulations to taut hisses and crone-like warbling. Additionally electronics bring live processing and projected field recordings onto the mix so that guttural or high-pitched vocal challenges and streaming choir-like harmonies are also heard. Expressing himself through strings, idiophones and reeds, Toop adds harsh bass recorder whistles, quivering steel guitar twangs and percussive interludes at various points in the performance. Monitoring between the two others, Butcher’s saxophone peeps doit and puffs create burbling air arabesques and slim contrapuntal trills while simultaneously contributing to the narrative evolution. The concluding section finds string flanges, reed cries and vocal drones blending into a single grinding interface. As each player confirms his or her identity with bell peals, treble vocalese and buzzing flattement, the projected improvisation that are both singular and united confirm its identity.

Each disc suggests strongly that the most illustrious use of a voice in creative music is when it becomes a wordless instrument itself.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: L’amour: 1. Le Temps Lent 2. Le Triangle Se Ferme 3. De Meme Que Le Ciel 4. Nuit 5. Un Choc Sourd 6. Trois Jours 7. Le Soleil | La Marche Du Fou 8. Elle Dort 9. Les Yeux S’ouvrent/Ils Retournent Au Noir 10. Ils Se Taisent | La Lumiere Monte 11. L’aurore Exterieure

Personnel: L’amour: Xavier Charles (clarinet); Jean-Sébastien Mariage (guitar) and Catherine Jauniaux (voice and objects)

Track Listing: Until: 1. Until The Night Melts Away

Personnel: Until: John Butcher (soprano and tenor saxophones); David Toop (lap steel guitar, flutes, bass recorder, African chordophone, objects) and Sharon Gal (voice, electronics, bells, objects)