Al Maslakh

This splendid music originates from a series of recordings captured at the notorious GRM studios in Paris in two different periods of 2007. Christine Sehnaoui (alto sax) and the late Michel Waisvisz (playing The Hands, one of his weird self-made instruments designed to pilot synth modules) amassed such a quantity of material during these sessions that, reportedly, six versions of the program were considered for release. Judging from the fascinatingly transfixing animation of the sounds concocted, this writer could probably have accepted a sextuple – but let’s be thankful anyway for a single disc’s worth of improvised radiance.

The determinant factor in attributing a magna cum laude mark to Shortwave is the tightness of the conversation between the musicians, who appear at the apex of their edifice of receptiveness throughout. Although digressions and contrasts are firmly at the basis of a shrewd analysis of timbral multiplicity there’s a definite inner apparatus at work, fuelled by lucid organization and instant configuration. Sehnaoui is a proficient saxophone surveyor who manages to find pictographic sides even in the harsher facets of her playing; the ability of eliciting sweet-sounding venom in disparate contexts and a swift sensitivity to conditions of extreme variability are but two of the numerous resources that she brings to the table. Waisvisz is a demanding partner in that sense, a gatherer of impulsive spills and unsentimental twists that rarely allow the listener to individuate familiar eventualities. Yet he’s also the holder of an uncharacteristic sort of sympathy, every discharge organically projected in the surrounding environment, spontaneously delineating a deeper conception of the acoustic phenomenon.

The mixture is unmistakably successful, gravity and irony easily living together over the course of the record; there are occasions in which distinguishing gurgling sublingual flutters from obstreperous synthetic patchworks is not exactly unproblematic. Recognizable features in the originality of an artistic pairing to which, unfortunately, we will only be able to listen again by preserving this gorgeous CD among the best specimens of enthrallingly munificent free improvisation.

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