CD Reviews

Friday 8th April

April 8, 2011

The CD in question is a new release by X_BRANE, the French trio of Bertrand Gauguet, (alto and soprano sax) Jean-Sébastien Mariage, (electric guitar) and Mathias Pontevia (batterie horizontale apparently, though I think basically percussion).

I’ve no idea where the group named X_BRANE comes from, but this release, on the  fine Amor Fati label is titled Penche un peu vers l’angle (Lean at little at an angle??) and contains a lot of music, with the three tracks here totalling up more than seventy minutes of improvisation. The recordings were made in a studio of some kind rather than in front of an audience, so the quality of the sound is great. What is difficult for me is trying to describe this music in any simple or lazy way. It is at once thoroughly familiar and yet also impossible to define with a few catchwords, which has to be a good thing.

Ultimately the music here is instrumental improvisation, three pieces of music performed spontaneously with relatively traditional tools. However, trying to pin this one down to any one corner of the improvised music spectrum is completely impossible. It is far from overly busy stuff, maintaining a slow pace throughout, but then it also falls into complete silence only very rarely, and when it wants to it can push the tension levels hard. Of the three musicians, the only one that doesn’t really play his instrument at any point in a completely traditional manner is Mariage, whose playing impressed me a lot when I saw Hubbub in London recently. His guitar playing is highly restrained, centred mostly around extended sounds, many of them tonal, often the result of eBow work or bowed strings. What he contributes seems very simple, but is in fact very carefully and delicately chosen and placed around the more traditionally familiar sounds of Gauguet’s breathy sax and the vibrating metals and booming strikes of Pontevia’s percussion.

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