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Thursday, September 20, 2012

String minimalism and the power of tone

By Stef   

Two albums with Frantz Loriot on viola, two minimalist albums, very avant, equally good in terms of musicianship, coherence, interplay and intensity, yet totally different in terms of tone and listening experience.

Bobun - Suite Pour Machines À Mèche (Creative Sources, 2012) ****

Bobun is a duo of French-Japanese viola-player Frantz Loriot, whom we know from the excellent "Baloni", and French cellist Hugues Vincent. The line-up is rare and we have so far only reviewed two other albums on this blog (Stefano Pastor & Kash Killion, and Vincent Royer & Séverine Ballon). Both musicians have played together for ten years, as a duo, but also with lots of Japanese and French musicians, including the great Joëlle Léandre, who was a teacher to both of them.

By their very nature, string duets bring us away from jazz as we know it, and Loriot and Vincent take us even a step further away from the known. Their open-ended minimalist music is built around either a drone-like tonal center as on the first track, or around silence like zen drawings or zen gardens. The strings carve out the space around the silence. With little touches, soft movements of surprise and wonder. But like Japanese art, the approach is equally direct and in-the-moment, intimate, recognisable yet at the same time shocking, revealing, pushing the listener (and the players?) out of their comfort zone, challenging his or her perceptions until you give up and just go with the sounds. And this is rewarding, because by the time you've completely let go, the approach changes slightly in the ear-piercing last-but-one track and then into the last track which miraculously opens like a flower.

A strange compelling aesthetic.


Carlo Costa, Frantz Loriot & Sean Ali - Natura Morta (PromNights, 2012) ****

We find the viola-player back in this trio setting with Carlo Costa on drums and Sean Ali on bass.

We reviewed the Italian, but now Brooklyn-based drummer Carlo Costa before, in a duo-setting with Japanse flautist Yakuri and the more jazzy (although still very relative) Minerva piano trio with "Saturnismo".

Despite the minimalism of this album, the tone is entirely different. It is amazing to experience the same concept of sound piercing through silence, but whereas the duet between Loriot and Vincent leads to gentle openness and wonder, this trio - using the same approach - offers us a dark, ominous and intense piece.

Whereas new elements and suddenly emerging sounds in the duo album led to fresh surprise, here they are a source of menace, adding an increase of tension, not actually assaulting the listener - the volume is too low for that - but adding a layer of danger - undefined like creaking floorboards - creating an anticipation of the inevitable doom.

The album is short, some thirty minutes only, but really worth looking for.

© stef