CD Reviews

Friday 9th December

December 9, 2011

Now, here is something amusing, or tragic, depending on how you look at it. I was recently sent a parcel of CDs by Ernesto Rodrigues at the Creative Sources label. It contained twenty or so CDs, about a dozen new releases plus some older items, I think chosen by Ernesto to try and find items that matched my taste. Anyway, I will try and work my way through most of these before Christmas, and plan to write a long post containing a number of smaller capsule reviews (similar to Brian does) simply because these are just too many CS releases out there for me to focus a post on each individually. As I have been to listen to this new batch though (and also some I still hadn’t played from the last bundle that arrived!) a few items have jumped out as warranting a longer review, so those I will write up as normal. Anyway, the last few days I have been listening to one such release, a disc named L’écorce change la foret by the trio of Frédéric Blondy, (piano) Jean-Sébastian Mariage  (electric guitar) and Dan Warburton (violin) and it has caught my attention enough to play it four or five times through and give a full post over to it. So tonight I sketched out some thoughts on the disc, on what I wished to say about it, as I often do while the disc played behind me. At this point, I went to find a photo of the release to accompany my writing, and when I visited the CS website, I found, much to my surprise that this release had actually been one of the earliest releases on the label, issued back in 2001, with a catalogue number of CS016, which I hadn’t noticed before. Given then that this release was recorded ten years ago, and that the latest CS CD carries the catalogue no CS200, I though about scrapping the review and finding something else to write about tonight. However, I have spent a few days enjoying this CD, so I’m damned if the release date should make a big difference, and given that Creative Sources is currently celebrating its tenth year of operation, and that this disc comes from its first year, it is maybe a nice tribute to Ernesto’s stirling work at CS that I write about it tonight.

So the first thing to note (and this could I guess be seen as both a good and bad thing) is that I had no problem believing that this was a contemporary CD. I had no suspicions at all of it sounding dated. It certainly sounds like improvised music, and thoroughly enjoyable improv at that, but nothing here sounds particularly new, and equally nothing sounds old. Those that suggest that improvisation has little new to offer in 2011 maybe indeed point to this as fuel for their particular fire, but I think it is more valuable to consider that this CD captures much of what can make improved music timeless when done properly. The trio here sound perfectly at home with their instrumentation, and they combine together seamlessly to form music that gathers in the attentive listener and involves them in the music as it unfurls before them. The music here was recorded ten years ago, but as we listen for the first time, we might as well had been listening back then. Improvised music, played well and with the musicians working well with one another feels fresh when heard for the first time. As I listen to it I hear it the same as the musicians did when they made it.

Thinking more closely though, with the benefit of hindsight now that I know the recording date, there is a certain turn-of-the-millenium feel to the music here. While the first couple of the three tracks here sound like good traditional tussles between three different variations of stringed instruments, scraping and grinding and moaning as much as they ring, chime and glow, the the third piece, the almost half an hour long Sleep, perchance to dream is beautifully understated. It isn’t so quiet that it might fall under any of the reductionist headings floating about at the time, but certainly there is a slowness, and spaciousness to the music here that would have won me over completely had I heard this disc ten years ago (and how come I didn’t?!). The final piece sees Blondy playing some stray, beautifully sustained single notes that are allowed to decay gradually into a bed of scratchy, almost invisible violin and some humming, purring guitar of a similar dynamic. It is gloriously lovely, and lasting as long as it does the almost fiercely tetchy opening sections of the album, and the rasping sounds of Warburton trying to saw his violin in half with the bow that open everything seem a long way away. Throughout the disc, from the more busy chapters to the closing Feldmanesque softness, the three instruments have a percussive feel to them, with Mariage’s guitar rarely strummed or plucked in a conventional manner, rather clicked and popped and I think eBowed, just as the inside of the piano is played as much as the keys, and the violin bow is possibly never drawn across the strings in the traditional way. You sense though that this isn’t a CD about extended technique, rather just three musicians chancing upon ways of playing that work together in the moment.

So my original review of this album ,before I noticed its release date wouldn’t have described this music as anything new, but would have hailed the quality of the playing and the ability of the trio to come together and create such a beautiful sound world in the moment. As it is, I see no reason to change any of that, and while I should add that I value attempts at innovation and new forms of music as much as anyone, there will always be room for this kind of creativity in my heart whilst labels like Creative Sources continue to release it. Happy birthday Ernesto!

Comment (1)

  • Dan Warburton

    December 10, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Thank you Richard – am curious to know what the other CS releases were in Ernesto’s package – choosing 20 from a catalogue of, what is it now, 200, must be quite a task, though I have a few personal favourites – I’m flattered that you chose to play this one five times.
    I think we – Fred and I, don’t remember discussing it openly with Jean-Sé – were very aware of the “reductionist” vibe back then. We played as a trio with Radu Malfatti at the Instants Chavirés about that time, I’d been exchanging emails with Radu for months to prepare that PT interview, and I think it all had an influence on Fred’s piano playing (though he’s always had a fondness for those Tilbury / Feldman soft touches). I remember I deliberately set out in the last piece to play as quietly as possible, and get progressively quieter – that was the challenge – if you listen closely you’ll hear the violin actually stops a few minutes before the end.. the only sounds you can hear coming from me are those of me putting the instrument in the case, zipping it up and actually walking out of the studio (or trying to).
    The track titles came later – we each chose one: Fred chose the opener, Jean Sé chose Oort and I chose Shakespeare. Thanks again for listening – this is one of my favourites, and I was very touched when Julien Skrobek described it as a life-changing album a while back. I suppose that’s the nicest compliment you can get (providing the change was for the better, not the worse).

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