Amor Fati Roundup

Amor Fati is a label from Bordeaux specializing in free music, whose releases are characterized by cardboard sleeves featuring individual abstract pictures and drawings, very nice collector’s items indeed. Last August, label manager Mathieu Immer was so kind to send me a copious selection of their production (sorry for the delay, Mathieu!). I decided to divide the reviews in two groups, of which this is the first (the rest will follow soon-ish – promise).

GIANNI GRÉGORY FORNET – Troppo Tintu È Addivintatu Lu Munnu

Previously unknown to this writer, Fornet (supposedly a Corsican, given the evident Sardinian influence of the title which means “the world has become too colourful”) is gifted with intelligence and sense of humour. Working solely with guitar overdubs and looped parts, he concocts a series of misrepresented melodies, rupestral asymmetries, Frithian references and discordant carousels that range from minimal possessiveness to melodic toadying – with a few caveats. The music often tends to paroxysm yet there’s also a nicely interpreted, properly constructed “song” that lets us open the heart to its simplicity and raw freshness. Both flustered and recusant of authority, Fornet skedaddles from the trite canons of many solo guitar albums in a remedy against the artificial spuriousness of certain areas of improvisation. Probably because the majority of his pieces is not really spontaneous – or is it? In any case, not one for the desert island but a sincere effort nevertheless.

JOBIC LE MASSON / BENJAMIN DUBOC / DIDIER LASSERRE – Free Unfold Trio

For this CD pianist Le Masson, contrabassist Duboc and drummer Lasserre were recorded in 2006 at Musée d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux. Gracefully poised jazzy improvisations from any observation angle, rather harmless as far as unforeseen surprises and impulsive twists and turns are concerned. There’s a commendable intercommunication between the parts, with a few accelerations causing the semi-controlled manners of the trio to become, sometimes, a fallow terrain of hurried glances to dissonance and clustered fragmentariness. But, overall, the skies where the daring birds of instantaneous inventiveness are used to spread their wings remain pretty clear. In other words, nothing new under the sun, despite the irrefutable technical adroitness of the participants.

3 ROCKS & A SOCK – Merci De Votre Visite

If you appreciate spoken word balancing spur-of-the-moment music, you might want to throw a pinch of consideration towards this CD, where Steve Dalachinsky reads contemporary poetry and texts from various authors (including Pier Paolo Pasolini) with involving enough dedication and the right dose of theatrical detachment, while Sébastien Capazza’s tenor sax and Didier Lasserre’s drums sketch different kinds of improvisational shapes around him, often verging on the “tolerable free-jazz” territory, elsewhere accompanying more tunefully so to speak. I, for one, would be a liar by stating that this is an unforgettable disc. There’s of course a certain grade of appeal in the chiaroscuro interplay generated by the musicians, a hide-and-seek machination that is nevertheless barely noticeable for memorable consequences; only through intense absorption we manage to sustain the attention throughout these 55+ minutes. It’s better seeing this stuff live than listening at home; the visual aspect is probably critical in that sense, and the music per se is not really catchy.

JEAN-LUC GUIONNET / BENJAMIN DUBOC – Self-titled

Richard Morice’s atelier in Paris is the location where, in 2005, this performance occurred. It’s an alto saxophone + contrabass duo that gives back some lustre to the concept of “use of space” in improvisation; that’s also to say that this is a very strong record in its succinctness. These men show indeed how a shrewdly reductionist approach works when the essential ideas are lucid: there’s a superb amalgamation of silences and sudden outbreaks that don’t sound like actual eruptions, appearing instead as big dots on a blank sheet of paper. The rest is a scrupulous analysis of the vibrating elements of the instruments, in which sheer hypotheses look well-rooted, getting instantly translated into a seamless texture of parasympathetic correspondences, each of the couple’s members constantly aware of the position occupied by the partner. The magnificently luscious timbre of Duboc’s bass is in itself a luxury for the ears, and Guionnet’s reed-fuelled efficient cleverness is, by now, an acknowledged fact.

SYLVAIN GUÉRINEAU – Dies Irae

Telling that Guérineau can’t play his instruments (alto and baritone saxophones) would be unjust, as he is the owner of a vigorous, American-rooted tone often complemented by the very voice of the artist, who screams in conjunction with the instrumental flare-ups when the occasion arises. Yet these 36 minutes of solo elucubrations, recorded at the Church of Saint Côme et Saint Damien in Luzarches – the lengthy reverberations should tell – are not particularly irresistible. Let’s be bluntly honest: several parts of this CD bored me a little bit. Consecutive successions of frequently prolix, otherwise rather predictable phrasings, halfway through “atonal” and “loosely thematic” and with few pauses, didn’t manage to elicit more than a superficial curiosity, soon put aside in the useless wait for something unanticipated to come and save the day – which never happened. Maybe next time?

BENJAMIN BONDONNEAU / FABRICE CHARLES – Dordogne

Even without excessive originality, Dordogne – a double CD by clarinettist Bondonneau and trombonist Charles, recorded minus supplementary effects during a trip along (you guessed it) Dordogne in the fall and winter of 2006 – is among the best, if not THE best of this first batch of releases. There’s more or less everything one would expect from an open-air recording session: the washing of the waters, sporadic meetings with natives, out-of-tune marching bands, rain, insects and birds. It’s how the artists mix their playing with the environmental sources that results as the winning card of the set: apart from the predictable tube-channelled airy currents, sublingual flutters and farting explosions, the couple makes sure that the instruments are perceived like a part of that natural setting, strange animals wailing, hissing and self-responding amidst semi-urban sceneries and long echoes defining solitary walks. When we’re left alone with the field recordings, it’s easy to be ensnared by the frequent moan-and-chug of some machine over which singing women and stuttering children manifest their microcosmic appearance, or appreciating once again the evocativeness of circumstances – say, a passing train – that should be considered ordinary but instead keep awakening the quiescent memories of adolescence. Our growth, in essence, before someone else decides to try and pollute that otherwise inaccessible mental purity.

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