By Julian Eidenberger
If memory serves, “Objet petit a” is a Lacanian term that stands for the interchangeable but ultimately unattainable object of desire (or something like that). How this concept is, beyond being its title, related to the duo recording to be reviewed in the next few paragraphs is admittedly a bit of a mystery to me, but the good news is that no knowledge of Jacques Lacan’s esoteric psychoanalytic theory, let alone of “Lacanese”, is required to appreciate the music.
So, let’s start over again: 'Objet a' is the outcome of a collaboration between guitarist Shane Perlowin and trumpeter Jacob Wick. Perlowin’s name might be familiar to those interested in the more adventurous side of rock music; however, as he has proved on the more recent – and stylistically more varied – albums of his main band Ahleuchatistas, he’s clearly not willing to restrict himself to any particular style or genre. By contrast, Jacob Wick is, at least to me, an entirely new name; that said, his playing here suggests a background in free improv.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the music they make as a duo is almost as hard to pigeonhole as it is difficult to grasp Lacan: Objet a sounds like the product of careful deliberation, but it’s definitely not tightly composed; at the same time, it has a certain looseness to it without being a typical improv record; and finally, the “structured improv” tag isn’t appropriate, either, since there are hardly any typical recurring themes on display here. Style-wise, it’s similarly ambiguous, with elements of jazz, new music, drone-y ambient and more creeping into the mix, but never taking center stage.
It’s mostly slow-paced music that proceeds carefully and deliberately; unlike some other (improv-)duos, Perlowin and Wick are not afraid of silence and don’t try to conceal emptiness with frenetic playing. On the contrary, they are clearly interested in the possibilities of negative space, in letting notes and sounds be shaped by the silence that surrounds them. Consequently, Objet a is, in a way, “nocturnal” music, with sounds emerging like shapes out of pitch-black darkness. This accounts for some of the record’s appeal; it lends quasi-coherence to the proceedings and invites the listener to listen very closely, to grasp each sound before it is swallowed up again by the darkness.
Nowhere, perhaps, is close listening more amply rewarded than on "It’s over there", where increasingly gruff trumpet sounds are juxtaposed with flamenco-like guitar runs. Still, to single out one track here is to miss the point, since the tracks segue into one another and are obviously meant to constitute a sort-of-narrative. If there’s anything that does warrant being singled out, even against better judgment, it’s probably Wick’s playing. While Perlowin’s skills and taste are almost a given by now, Wick has really amazed me here; he employs a wide variety of extended techniques, hissing like a leaky gas pipe in one moment and sounding like a rodent rummaging about in a garbage bin during the next.
To sum up, this is frequently fascinating listening on the borders between jazz, free improv and perhaps new music à la Ligeti.