Sophie Tassignon: voice; Peter Van Huffel: clarinet, alto & soprano saxophone; Julie Sassoon: piano; Miles Perkin: double bass
When, in the scope of a single album, one is confronted with variable compositional and improvisational issues from a piece to another while retaining an overall feeling of consistent exploration, inherent messages materialize since the beginning. House Of Mirrors – the wife-and-husband duo of Sophie Tassignon and Peter Van Huffel, here finely complemented by crucial instrumental additions – exalt over eleven tracks the values of comprehensibility and synchronous intuition across drama, irony and contemplativeness. Their music may sound mildly angular (“Labyrinth”) or broodingly lyrical (“Les Chant Des Oiseaux”) but never pretentiously lacerated, or overly rigid in its shapes and nuances.
Tassignon – her guiltless timbre remotely describable as a cross between Norma Winstone and Catherine Jauniaux – also emerges as a cultured composer willing to follow branching paths. The initial “Old Stones” is an evocative tune entirely sung with an “aahh” type of vocalization, still digging quite deep in the resultant melancholic tendency. “Mirror” and “Mute” transport antithetical moods; the former’s righteously quirky counterpoints brought to this writer’s mind a chamber embodiment of (unforgettable) Aqsak Maboul, whereas the latter finds the protagonist reciting, in theatrical fashion, an intelligent text about the air-saturating features and, if you will, the intrinsic dangers of people’s endless necessity to talk.
Van Huffel’s immaculate technique accentuates the feel of malleable organization transmitted by the scores, including its more aleatory particles. Either on clarinet or sax, the man sensibly turns problematic inventions into an easy acceptance of rational uncommonness, particularly in relation to controlling potentially inefficacious impulses inside a melody’s heterogeneity. Besides, he wrote a precious stone called “This Is The Garden”: the sonic rendition of a poem by E.E. Cummings, an impressive synthesis of minimalist appeal and unembellished profundity. Speaking of which, Sassoon and Perkin are perceived throughout the entire set as perfectly merged human mechanisms within exemplary acoustic formulations. The pianist infiltrates and subtitles with punctilious cleverness not deprived of idealism; the bassist’s marvelous cello-like glissandos in the aforementioned episode are alone worth of kudos.
In essence, Act One is a cogent testimony of artistic consciousness by talented musicians not intimidated by the idea of showing their purest side.