In the moment when silence and its weak ruptures become unbearable for a man to sustain, a music based on those very characteristics is equally problematic. When an artist works with micro-elements such as Belgian Pierre Gerard, the challenge is that of pushing a listener to find new implications within acoustic milieus exploited to the bone. ENVIRONMENT & Gesture is a three-part piece whose linearity is somewhat displacing; even more puzzling is the positive reaction of this reviewer in front of natural components – mostly water and faraway environmental whispers, with the addition of an unspecified “instrument” – that have been used thousands of times before by other practitioners of the same area, with increasingly ho-hum results. However, I have come to trust Gerard pretty much throughout the recent past. His method cancels the ego completely, privileging the macrocosmic aspects of an introspective solitude. Accordingly, the work manages to involve to a point of complete participation “inside” the rarefied messages coming from the speakers. Despite the absence of surprises, this record is characterized by a wealth of recondite signals – wrapped in an awful lot of implicit meanings – transforming the hush that follows the end of the album into a deafening dearth of questions, as if all what we needed to know was already printed somewhere in the countryside’s scents.
PIERRE GERARD / SHINKEI – Static Forms
33 minutes subdivided in two individual pieces. Gerard’s is the longest one, inspired by John Cage (repeatedly quoted in the press release; let’s not forget that those sentences opened the road to all kinds of artistic nonentity, thus I tend to read them with a mixture of perplexity or, if you prefer, unconvinced respect). Unspecified instrumental and environmental sources – some of them identifiable, others not – give life to brief flashes of incidental activity in between silence. These sounds are “just there”, appearing and dying instantly, without pretending of being remembered – and, in fact, they won’t. A well-mannered statement, but Bernhard Günter it ain’t. Shinkei (David Sani) tends to let the frequencies work a little more, immediately starting with a Francisco López-like subterranean rumble which, right after, leaves room for the kind of micro-activity that is audible only in a completely silent setting, inserting rare notes of a slightly detuned piano for good measure. The blatant noise of rolling glass bottles – or are they? – trashes any good intention, ruining the suspension that the beautiful beginning had created; penetrating electronics manage to save the track from an unexpected disaster. An impressionistic piece, so to speak, that results less disjointed to these ears. However, this ground has become sterile by now, and not from yesterday. To quote Cage again, “we need not fear the silences, we may love them”.
SHINKEI / MISE_EN_SCENE – Leftover_1
This is a 3-inch CD lasting circa 21 minutes, fruit of Sani’s collaboration with Tel Aviv’s Shay Nassi. As the title reveals, these are particles and residues from a different recording – Scytale, on the Japanese label mAtter – which they decided to expand a little to generate a new piece (in turn constituting the start of a series). The general sense of unquiet stillness obviously remains, although – differently from the above reviewed Static Forms – the sounds tend to occupy corners and refract more, and actual moments of silence are practically absent. There’s a distinct incidence of barely catchable aural details – from slight-yet-piercing hissing to electronically generated bubbling – and maybe a degree of processed field recordings. Yet everything stays in the domain of normality, apart from a dominant subsonic hum that makes the room’s loose parts rattle towards the end, also indicating the track’s highest point.
RADU MALFATTI – Wechseljahre Einer Hyäne (To Ulrich Krieger)
Performed by Intersax (Ulrich Krieger, Martin Losert, Tobias Rüger and Reimar Volker), this composition for 2 x baritone, alto and soprano saxophones by Malfatti is among the most fascinating I’ve heard from his repertoire (which, admittedly, is not exactly my specialization). This recording is dated 2003 and was captured live at Berlin’s Podewil. Amidst the expected silences (in this case we can really say that, thanks to an excellently behaved audience who literally seems to hold their breath during the execution) gently blown clusters of the peaceful kind materialize at different times – sometimes closer than one would expect – over the course of 30 minutes, fading neon signs involuntarily trying to indicate the right way to a lost soul in a street at late night. When those murmured chords vanish, a single saxophone maintains a note a little longer, remaining alone for a few instants to nail the meaning of that figure to the ground. I don’t know if it depends on your reporter’s not exactly sundrenched mood in a gloomy, coldly plumbeous Sunday afternoon, but the piece results an ideal sonic complement to the aura of pessimistic resignation which has been lingering in the house for a while today, and that someone – not me, though – might associate with a pre-death sensation, like if everything that’s made appeared as a waste of time, the living organism just going through the motions to arrive at tomorrow. The intrigue of life also lies in the correct mental management of similar moments, and the music is very effective in that sense – especially when enriched by the circumstantial noises coming from afar. (Et Le Feu Comme)
SAP(e) featuring BERNHARD GÜNTER – Improvisation
The trio of Aurélien Besnard (clarinet), Christophe Devaux (electric guitar) and Guillaume Contré (laptop) moves around the regions where concentrated instrumental tampering borders with micro-sonic extemporaneity; that’s why the presence of Günter – here on pocket trumpet, clarinet and effects – appears as virtually perfect for the occasion. The interchange between the artists is informed by a constant impression of unexploded intensity, mainly characterized by timbres seemingly unwilling to depart from the grey area between corroded metal and suburban dimness. The only instantly identifiable voice comes from Devaux’s intimately miked strings, from which knotty snippets, luminescent oxidation and quiet drainage raise their small heads amidst brain-cuddling longer tones emitted by the reeds. The computer’s activities are clearly discernible but not overstated, the lone exception a looped fragment that disappears ten seconds after having entered the audio frame. An odd sense of organic liquidness permeates a sizeable part of this appealing work, whose persuasiveness ultimately resides in its capacity of holding our concentration in a grip without pauses, halfway through tangible matter and sinister reflectivity. (Et Le Feu Comme)
PIERRE GERARD – Plateaux (For Gilles Deleuze)
The common denominator of this three-headed review is Pierre Gerard, a Belgian composer who also happens to be the boss of the above linked Et Le Feu Comme net label. In keeping with the typical Koyuki standards Plateaux is very minimal, both in the sonic and the graphic design (the latter courtesy of Luigi Turra). The inexpert ear could easily position it in the undeserved company of less significant onkyo-derived releases, yet this would be terribly wrong, as Gerard knows what he’s doing much better than hundreds of so-called “alternative” artists. His sense of event placing is astonishingly acute: there’s not a moment in the whole album in which a sound appears unnecessary or unwanted in that particular instance. Speaking of tone and timbre, he masterfully alternates vapour and grain, sequences of hovering low-frequency “presences” interspersed with jagged interruptions and piercing interferences, like needles waking us up from a hypnotic illusion. One feels isolated and enraptured at the same time, the practical incapability of defining the sources of these undersized daydreams an actual advantage. This mixture of dynamic activity, extreme accuracy and mesmerizing minimization of nervous peaks – clocking at the perfect length of half a hour – should not be left disregarded. (Koyuki)