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Friday, August 27, 2021

Jean-Luc Guionnet - l'épaisseur de l'air (Thin Wrist, 2021) ****

By Keith Prosk

Jean-Luc Guionnet performs nine solo alto saxophone improvisations illuminating thresholds of sound and silence, pattern and variation, tone and noise on the 75’ "l'épaisseur de l'air".

While Guionnet has released solos previously, often for organ, this is their first for alto sax. Guionnet’s work often draws attention towards the relationship of sound to a certain space but, while the notes somewhat specifically reveal this was recorded in a semi-open barn in Brittany in 2018, the particular effects of the room on the sound are not so apparent to the blind listener of this recording. At the time of writing, Guionnet has also released the gargantuan four-hour collage featuring voices of 80+ friends across geographies, Totality, in 2021.

Perhaps as expected from a debut solo - though Guionnet is a veteran of the music - "l'épaisseur de l'air" showcases a broad range of technique. But polar behaviors and materials are juxtaposed as if to reveal the threshold between them or maybe its non-existence. Generous silence interrupted by breath notes interrupted by fragile sounding interrupted by strong honking. Punctuating, percussive pops cut to buzzing fly or shawm-like sustain. Sonorous melodies side by side raucous squeaks. A music of obvious rhythm together with a music of subtle pulse. Sequences of tonal cells tripping up the mind’s perception of whether they might be repetitions, variations, or some combination. The frequent contrast of sound and silence, sustained and discrete sounding, soft and loud, high and low pitch. Sometimes at once, multiphonically.

But more than some technical flex, its broad range means there’s perhaps a little something for everyone here. I particularly enjoyed the sounds of microtonal chitterings, warm organesque lullabies, harmonic beating patterns, hand-cupped bird calls, and a kind of psychoacoustic effect like digital distortion.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.



Keith said...

Sam Weinberg did an excellent radio show with Guionnet just this week, touching on both '21 releases:

Anonymous said...

The Bandcamp Link is actually here: