Thursday, May 30, 2019

Christine Abdelnour & Chris Corsano - Quand Fond La Neige, Où Va Le Blanc? (Relative Pitch, 2019) ****½

By Nick Metzger

This was another difficult release to write about because (again) it’s a departure from what I’ve come to expect from a sax/drums duo (though that is rapidly changing, much to my enjoyment). It’s much more readily comparable to another recent Relative Pitch release, the exceptional “Bind the Hand(s) That Feed ”, than it is to say “Interstellar Space”. Like the former release, the traditional mechanisms of saxophone and drums are abandoned for something weirder, less immediately identifiable and/or palatable, but a heck of a lot more interesting to listen to (for a 2019 release, and for my money). Franco-Lebanese alto saxophonist Christine Abdelnour (née Sehnaoui ) has been vocal about her love/hate relationship with her saxophone. Though her initial inspirations included the playing of John Butcher, Peter Brötzmann, and Evan Parker she’s stated that recently her playing is more inspired by electro-acoustic or purely electronic music (a trend I’ve noticed more and more within the free improvisation world), which rings true in her playing. It’s more about texture and dynamics than rhythm and melody, and more-so, in that it’s fairly far removed from the free jazz idiom (which is more in-line with true free improvisation as defined in Mr. Bailey’s book, in any case). She is mainly a solo performer and in that context you can truly hear her uncanny control over her breath and her instrument, as well as her acute awareness of how she’s interacting acoustically with the performance space. Lots of free saxophone players experiment with extended techniques with varying degrees of success, but she takes it to another level entirely. She credits much of her development to her time playing in workshops and orchestras organized by Instants Chavires in Paris. Since then she’s played with numerous artists such as guitarist Andy Moor, composer/multi-instrumentalist Michel Waisvisz , and pianist Magda Mayas to site a few diverse examples. Corsano, as our readers know, gets around . A savant in extended technique himself, this partnership with Abdelnour finds him particularly adventurous as he mixes in a healthy dose of his highly creative drumming with pure noise art, joining Abdelnour in producing several trebly, jagged sound sculptures.

The first piece is called “Opening Umbrellas Indoors” and finds the duo summoning all kinds of interesting sounds from their acoustic instruments. Some instances of subjective pareidolia I heard are wind-up toys, industrial steam lines, saliva expressions, grima, chimes, hissing, bowed metal, flute, rattles, creaks, pops, etc. The second piece, “Sparrow’s Tea” really works over the tweeters. Here we get high pitch bowed metal squeal from Corsano as Abdelnour subjugates the altissimo register with circular breathing and a fiery Zorn-like aggression. “Sitting Still While the House Next Door Burns” is more dynamically colorful. It traverses from a trembling drone on through a multiphonic phantasmagoria and into a rolling cascade of rhythm and squelch before again receding like an alien tide. In “Below the Hull” Corsano is back to his bowed cymbal dissonance while Abdelnour operates somewhere between breathy multiphonics and the kinds of sounds I make getting at the last drop of an overpriced drink in a restaurant with a no-free-refills policy. On “The Mended Lid” the pair carries on an extended conversation in a choppy Cetacean vernacular that is spry upfront, but slows to a leisurely pace. On “Sixth Hinge” Abedelnour honks and squeals around Corsanos resourceful, trundling aggregate. “Old Tales” is a prime example of the utility of Corsano’s drumming, finding him perfectly matching the seams of Abdelnour’s growling jigsaw puzzle piece with a heaping dose of bowed thrum and grit. On “Every Extra Thing” the duo opens up a bit and Corsano’s undulating and airy percussion is a welcome sound after the maelstrom of the preceding tracks. Abdelnour slashes at this soft bedding of rhythm with a complex timbre that growls and flutters. “Omit the Ninth Row” concludes the album with something that sounds like two mutant birds conversing at a railyard (again, a bit of subjectivity on my part). Minimal variation until the last couple of minutes, when it becomes even sparer, as if the birds have given up and patter away in grievant self-soliloquy.

All-in-all the concepts exhibited here are work well and I really enjoyed the record. It has to be stated though, that I enjoy this type of experimentation and challenging listening. If your ears can’t deal with, say Parker’s Monoceros (this album is not Monoceros but it wears similar pants), then you probably won’t find this any more charming. The thing I enjoyed the most was just the sheer timbral inventiveness of the duo. There are textures here that (again, if you’re into this sort of thing) are seriously satisfying to listen to. One critical note is that a few of the pieces are built off a single concept and vary slightly only in dynamics. They could’ve done with a bit more variety and/or been allowed to develop further. But since these are working musicians we’re talking about here (and professional free improvisers none-the-less) there were undoubtedly restrictions in time and circumstance at play. Let’s hope they continue this collaboration and perhaps pull even more like-minded musicians into the fracas.

Quand Fond La Neige, Où Va Le Blanc? preview on Youtube:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please note that comments on posts do not appear immediately - unfortunately we must filter for spam and other idiocy.