CD Reviews

Thursday 4th June

June 4, 2009

So some notes this evening on another Creative Sources release, this one recorded all the way back in 2003 and released not that long after, but it is a new one to me, having got somewhat lost in the Creative Sources deluge of releases. the release is named belvedere dans l’étendue (belvedere in the expanse) and is a recording of David Chiesa, (bass) Jean-Luc Guionnet, (alto sax) Emmanuel Petit (guitar) and Eric La Casa, who, having set up microphones placed around and outside of the house in which the music was recorded, mixed these live into the recording we have here. The house in question  is a small countryside abode situated in a village in the Ardeche region of France. As La Casa filtered in recordings of each room in the house and the wildlife outside of it, the other three musicians wandered slowly from room to room, playing on their own, sometimes within earshot of the others, sometimes not, sometimes close to a microphone, sometimes not.

Even without hearing the music I love this idea. Somehow I am reminded of the great new Andrea Neumann release I wrote about a few days back, in which other musicians playing in the same building unwittingly seeped into Neumann’s recording. No accidents here as such, though one wonders how much of the collaborative music we hear on the recording was intentional. One assumes that probably at least some of the musicians could hear what each other was doing at any one time, but maybe not all. The other thing about this release that makes it different to other straight improv recordings is the presence of the sound of wildlife throughout the disc, mainly birds and buzzing insects, but they are there on and off throughout. In fact when I first ripped this CD to my iPod it was without hearing it before, and I first listened to it as I stepped outside of my house on the way to work yesterday. The first thing you hear as the music fades up is the happy twittering of birds, which was also the main sound I could hear in my neighbourhood as I walked to work. Of course then I couldn’t tell which sounds were coming from where as I walked, which gave a nice touch to the experience.

As for the music itself well it is very much to my taste, quite sparse, very “2003” chamber-like improvisation. I am reminded somehow of the music of The Sealed Knot, even though there is absolutely no crossover of instrumentation at all between the groups. There are occasional swells of tonal sound, coming mainly I think from the sax and guitar, but most often we hear scraping, bowing, soft sounds, which are often beautifully blended by La Casa into the environmental sounds captured outside. There is one truly gorgeous moment at forty-five minutes when what sounds like guitar feedback is suddenly submerged under what sounds like a brief flurry of wind against an external mic, then a few seconds of fluttering sax before everything gives way to birdsong again. If this music had been composed and put together from separate recordings in post-production then it would be admirable, but the fact that is seems to have been mixed and recorded live from the different microphone feeds makes it even more impressive.

In places the music seems a little fragmented, and here and there certain sections seem to drag on a little, but this is inevitably a result of the way it was put together. What surprises me though is just how often it sounds “together” and the musicians seem to be playing together, which of course they might have been doing, but then again they might not. It is this fascinating structure that combines chance with deliberate action, which is all then in turn consciously composed on the spot by La Casa that makes this recording so intriguing and rewarding to listen to.

This is an older Creative Sources disc obviously. It is one of the ones I had originally contacted Ernesto Rodrigues about ordering from him because Guionnet’s music in particular has been of much interest to me lately, This matters not though, the disc is still available to order from the CS site. Another good Creative Sources release then that I would have been very happy to pay for.

Comment (1)

  • simon reynell

    June 5, 2009 at 10:05 am

    I think Belvedere is a beautiful cd – lovely music and fantastic recording. I’m utterly jealous of Eric La Casa’s skills. It’s no easy thing to record music with such clarity simultaneously with the environment in which it is being performed. A tremendous work.

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