Quite an odd little CD today then, another release on the Prele records label from France, this one a disc entitled Musique pour tromps et ballons, and credited to Ziph, a large group lead by Thiery Madiot, who is, or at least certainly has been, a bass trombonist. The story behind this release is a little confusing, and can be read here, but from what I can tell Madiot, while somehow dismantling a trombone so as to play it in reverse (stay with me) stumbled across a new instrument, named a ziph, which would appear to be a “roll of floor covering” (a carpet?) that can be between 2 and 20 metres long, with a balloon stretched over one end, held open in some fashion with a ring, and then blown though/over in a manner something like a stretchy reed. I think that’s right, but read for yourself.Â This disc of thirteen tracks then apparently features groups of between two and thirteen musicians, although only twelve musicians are named on the sleeve. They areÂ David Bausseron, Claude Colpaert, Vincent Debaets, Lune Grazilly, Patrick Guionnet,Â Jacques Leclercq, Thierry Madiot, Yanik Miossec, Aline Paligot, Michael Potier, ChristianÂ Pruvost and Li-Ping Ting and all, unless I am mistaken, are new to me. The pieces here were all recorded on two occasions as long ago as 2004.Â Â Part of me, a very English part of me wants to say that all of this could only be French. But that would be wrong so I won’t!
So that’s one heck of a description of a CD. What does it sound like? Well in places very lovely indeed, in others less so. To confuse things just a little bit more, the thirteen tracks here are apparently dedicated to twelve different famous avant garde musicians and composers, from Tudor to LaMonte Young to Radu Malfatti to James Tenney with more besides, only it isn’t made clear which track is dedicated to who. part of the fun is trying to guess. I’d goes that the opening piece is the one dedicated to Alvin Lucier, given that it is named I am blowing in a tube, but beyond the title I can’t hear mush else to link the piece to him, so I will assume that the dedications are relatively arbitrary. The track then vary between the incredibly soft, rich, noteless bass tones of pieces like Sensor acoustic band, which is really quite wonderfully subtle in its gently shifting layers of Malfatti-esque ultra-low hums through to the kind of bubbling, wobbling Laptop imitation which actually sounds like a heavy storm blowing around a tent, creating a loud, frantic flapping sound. Each piece seems to investigate either a different approach to the ziph, or operates by stacking up the sounds of many of them, seemingly of greater sizes, the larger ones presumably producing the deeper sounds. It i shard not to make the disc sound like the output of a bunch of crazy people in an old carpet shop, but there is actually a lot of care taken here and the execution and control seemingly put into these pieces is often quite remarkable. Ontological breathing is another piece that layers many Â extended ziph exhalations, but here the sounds are thinner, breathier, like a multi tracked collage of many recordings of wind getting in through slightly ajar windows. My favourite tracks are those that layer these extended sounds, but one or two of the quirkier ones, such as the Â two pieces named Dripping Tubes I and II (I will guess dedicated to George Brecht and his Drip Music) work well, those pieces literally resembling a series of odd dripping patterns created through a kind of popping, sputtering ziph sound played in quick succession.
So this is an odd disc then, who knows what you file it next to, but at its best it is actually quite beautiful, and if you can somehow shut the images out of your head that the description of the musicians and their instruments present you with, and just focus on the sounds here it is in quite a few places a very fine listen.