CD Reviews

Thursday 21st April

April 21, 2011

bruno duplantThe spam filters here at TWE central blocked six comments today, from four different sources, all about UFO sitings in Mexico. The internet never fails to amaze me… Anyway, apologies for the dearth of writing over recent days and for the public display of feeling sorry for one’s self last night. Here’s a CD review-

Another new CDr from Jez riley French’s prolific Engraved Glass label, this one the tenth disc in
the .point engraved series which I think focuses on the work on other musicians. The disc is named One Hour North, and is the work of a French bassist/composer Bruno Duplant. The album contains three pieces, two of which clock in at between ten and fifteen minutes, either side of a lengthy forty minute central track. All of the pieces though are quite different.

The opening piece is named arras, une heur trente d’arrêt, and is a work that combines a single continuous field recording of what sounds like overheard conversations between children and an adult woman. (Maybe Duplant’s wife and children that are credited on the CD’s accompanying card? Just a guess) This recording is a little blurred, distant, the kind of thing you might imagine hearing on a summer’s day in the park. The voices speak in French, and they sound happy, but beyond this little can be ascertained. Over this field recording are layered tiny little buzzes and clicks and taps, originating from ‘small objects’ and a radio. Occasionally the radio bursts into little patches of conversation, but it doesn’t stay with these for more than a fleeting moment. Then alongside all of this is layered a further recording, of a man whistling, somewhat aimlessly, vaguely melodically (I thought I could identify the tune in several places but never quite managed it). The overall effect of all of this is pleasing, a kind of murmuring drift of sound that feels like it does all belong together, even though clearly it doesn’t. I’m reminded, for some very bizarre reason of early hip hop production, where disparate samples would be overlaid to create a massed overall effect, only here the samples are twelve minutes long and aren’t looped. The effect is the same though, with a good compositional ear spotting how well the three elements would work together.

The second track is a different animal altogether. Its a realisation of a graphic score by Duplant (a small image of the score or part of it, is included with the release) The piece is named One four for five (who goes slowly goes) and is realised here by five musicians who each recorded their part separately, with the track then put together by overlaying the five parts. The musicians are Vanessa Rossetto, (viola with small motors) Paulo Chagas, (bass clarinet) Lee Noyes (inside and outside piano) Phil Hargreaves (flute) and Duplant himself playing double bass. The score dictates rough timings for loosely described events (‘long notes’, ‘what you want with rhythm’, ‘noises’ etc…) The piece goes on for forty minutes and throughout it wanders all over the place. There are some very nice moments in there, with the piano and bass in particular standing out, but also some parts (notably often Chagas’ clarinet) that veer towards more melodic, even jazzy sensibilities. The problem with a work realised like this (and I am assuming that the five musicians had not heard each others’ contributions when they made their own) is that it takes all five musicians to be essentially on the same page as each other regarding mood and style, and if one or two wander off in a strong direction, as Chagas does here, it will stand out a mile. The score also clearly asks the musicians to “never play loud!!!” and here and there Chagas certainly seems to do this. I don’t mean to pick out one musician here but his contributions do stick out a little.

Overall, One four for five (who goes slowly goes) is OK, but it begins to tire somewhat over its lengthy duration, perhaps because of its meandering nature, which was in turn probably caused by the method of the track’s construction. This kind of thing is always brave, and its fascinating how such a project turns out, but here , while there are some nice passages the piece wanders about a little too much for my taste.

We then get a further piece, named Nord, which combines more murkily enigmatic field recordings, mostly grey-sounding recordings of traffic over wet roads- all very quiet and unassuming again), Duplant’s double bass and a recording of an old record player, playing something classical (for brass and piano I think?) but the sound is warped, slowed and coated in static. Duplant’s playing is very nice here, restrained to just little interjections here and there, often picking out tiny parts of the record playing, sometimes combining with the traffic, mostly bowed but with some knocks and plucks at dry strings here and there. This is a nice piece. In places the gramophone dominates a little too much for my liking, and I’d have liked to have heard the traffic coming through the mix a little stronger in places, but this is nit-picking as the piece is another excellent example of Duplant’s ear for combining seemingly disparate sounds.

Overall a mixed bag but with some lovely moments and a pointer towards a composer with a good ear for layering elements together. While I struggled a little with the central composed piece, and perhaps may have preferred more of the field recording / acoustic instrumentation juxtaposition in its place, this is a nice CD, the first I have heard from Duplant, who promises good things ahead.

Comments (2)

  • brunoduplant

    April 22, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Très cher richard,
    First, as usual you express exactly what you felt, without trying to please anyone … I am grateful to thee!
    To play a graphic score from a distance is not easy, but that was for me the chalange. To be honest, it’s not really what I expected (wanting more of silence and restraint …), but I’m still quite proud of the result. A collective performance always escapes a little bit to his creator…
    Secondly,I think the noise level considerably influence listening and perception of these three parts. Each to try and find different combinations. For me it is really low, but for someone else it could be truly much higher.
    Anyway, thank you very much for this review both truly sincere and relevant.
    Sorry for my surely bad english…
    Best regards,
    Bruno Duplant.

  • JrF

    April 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    thanks for the review richard. I’d like to comment on the process of creating a score & then letting it out into the world for a group of musicians to realise. I too looked at the score & the comment ‘never play loud’ & upon listening to the piece didn’t quite see where certain aspects had been adhered to. I think whats of interest though is that for one thing it’s clear that different musicians have very different ideas of what ‘loud’ is & also that once a decision is made to perform a score then that in itself is part of the outcome – in so much as the decision of players to involve created this result, for better or worse & the tension between the composers hopes / ideas & the outcome adds to that result. It took me some time to decide to release ‘one four for five’ – longer than for the other two tracks, which I liked quickly & keep me interested. I feel it’s a track that one has to allow to sink in & its questions, its push & pull & the way it drifts in & out of musical connection between the players, once accepted, add another dimension to the piece.

    I should also point out that an alternative version of ‘one four for five’ performed by school children in New Zealand is available as a free download (info on the card that comes with the disc) & its interesting to hear what happens when all the players are in the same room & indeed are young uns !

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