STÉPHANE RIVES – Much Remains To Be Heard

Al Maslakh

Exclusively blowing into a soprano saxophone, Stéphane Rives signs the second solo album recorded at his name following 2003’s Fibers on Potlatch. By defining this music “neither an improvisation, nor a composition”, Rives delivers the reviewer from the burden of an apparently inevitable classification, at the same time opening a whole assortment of interpretations to something that, purely and simply, appears like a meshing of physical and metaphysical, a subtle line separating a charged hush from the extreme tension that a bodily contraption generates, and that gets reflected in the shape of prolonged insufflations, or in the wavering piercing buzzing of adjacent harmonics. It’s not an undemanding task.

By continuously holding on a rough pitch – listen to the saxophonist sucking the air in during the circular breathing process, necessary for maintaining the sound uninterrupted – the artist throws out a crucial warning sign of life, symbolizing a presence that’s as basic as a newborn child’s cry, the urge of expressing a concept of “I’m right here, in this space, and this is my voice”. After a while the evolution begins: the note starts breaking up in minuscule shards, struggling to find position and definition in the room yet already powerful enough to let us foresee a development.

This is exactly what happens halfway through the piece, when Rives decides that the moment has come to increase the thickness of the emission. What rubs the ears at that point is a kind of extremely uneven tremor rarely audible in normal circumstances, probably causing a panicky reaction to those who believe that the brain should be lulled in order to be enhanced. Instead, this French gentleman slashes the listener with ruthless textures and stabbing high frequencies until we’re ready to brawl, he himself fighting a battle against the inconsequentiality of cuteness.

The quiet segments amplify the gist of what comes after – which, as time passes by, becomes more “fleshy” and timbrally delineated, but not painless. The variations in the shades of an introverted tone produce a stunning effect of entrancement, particularly evident around the 40th plus minutes; this section is the one that definitively elevates this CD to the highest spheres of essential analysis of a sonic phenomenon. Yet when the timbres begin to be finally accepted by our systems, silence falls again. The same goes to the end, which is preceded by another series of incredible, inhuman-sounding shuddering purrs.

Incandescent lights of sensitivity define this release as a milestone of explorative nothingness. To fully comprehend the magnitude of Much Remains To Be Heard we should perhaps forget about talking for a couple of months as we realize that there’s no need of contact whatsoever, such is the huge quantity of galvanizing energies that the record transmits. It contains everything that sheer being should mean and use – absolute stillness and advanced pulsation – in a hour or so. Alternatively, you can still play a part in community rituals based on made-up blathering about doing something important for the world at large, then go home and realize that you’re feeling as good as dead instead.

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