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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Pascal Battus/Michel Doneda – Miracle (Potlatch, 2021) ****

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

The French improviser Pascal Battus seems like the ideal representative for the unique catalogue of Potlatch. Always experimenting, he has been focusing for many years now on building percussive environments (now, this might be a neologism), utilizing rotating surfaces with whatever has in his hands. From prepared guitars, percussion instruments up to any kind of small electronic device. You should definitely check his work with Bertrand Gauget and Eric La Casa, Ichnites (again on Potlatch) with Christine Abdelnour, plus Froid Solaire, with Magali Sanheira, which came out around the same time as Miracle.

As for saxophonist (here on sopranino and soprano) Michel Doneda what there is to say, that hasn’t been said? I consider him one of the few sax innovators of the past three decades. He has been experimenting within, but mostly out f the jazz boundaries, definitely expanding the instrument’s vocabulary.

On Miracle both artists work in unison, using a method I would call something like concentrated playing together. The listener cannot tell if someone leads the way, if they have any kind of predetermined ideas. I strongly believe they have not. Neither voice stands out from the other. You feel total commitment, a denial of the ego. Their aim seems a dual one. First is to create an a-rhythmic atmosphere. The timbre of the saxes play an integral part in the droneish feeling of the recordings, in all five tracks (clocking just over fifty minutes) of the cd. The rotating surfaces of the instruments Battus is utilizing add up to that non rhythmic feeling. Battus doesn’t resort to the convenience of making them sound “percussive” or producing any kind of rhythm with and by them.

Quite the contrary. He tries to create an atmosphere by them, escalating the audio results track by track. Do not get me wrong though. This is not a noisy recording (it could easily be one) that saturates the listener. Apart from the last track, where the tension rises like they are climaxing, they build their sonic environments little by little. Their plan, if there’s one, was to concentrate with audacity on any non-intimidating element of the music, producing a humble, fragile outcome. It could be called electro-acoustic experimentation, but take it only as a guideline and nothing more. Miracle is just adventurous sound-making.

You can listen and buy here: