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Monday, August 14, 2023

Martin Küchen & Sophie Agnel- Detour Tunnels Of Light (Thanatosis, 2023)

By Stef Gijssels

Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen has many faces ... and many voices. Most readers will know him best  from his band "Angles" (extrovert, exuberant, infectious): 
... and possibly also from his solo work (dark and introvert):  

Next to these, he also has a few dozen albums with some of the best musicians in free improvisation and jazz: Agusti Fernandez, Rafal Mazur, Vasco Trilla, Zlatko Kaucic, Burkhard Beins, Steve Noble, Ernesto Rodrigues, Keith Rowe ...

For this excellent album, we find him in a duo format with French pianist Sophie Agnel, still recently reviewed on our blog for her albums "Animals" and Gargorium" (2023), and before for "La Pierre Tachée" (2022), "Marguerite d'Or Pâle" (2016), "Aqissieq" (2018), "Meteo" (2013), performing also with a number of like-minded artists: John Butcher, Steve Noble, Daunik Lazro, John Edwards, Satoko Fujii, Benjamin Duboc, Christine Wodrascka ...

On "Detour Tunnels Of Light", they serve us four improvised pieces, open-textured and fragile. Both artists have redefined the sound of their instruments, and possibly also of the concept of music. Agnel uses all aspects of her instrument, standing next to it, making strings resonate, vibrate, pluck, twang, or other sounds that are  delightfully unfamiliar. The interaction with Küchen's sopranino works well. His voice is rasping, hoarse, often plaintive and sad, with lots of bended notes, creating a human-like inflection to his sound. 

All four tracks clock at a little longer than eight minutes, and their combined voice remains coherent throughout, and only on the second track - not without reason called 'The Gould Passage' - her piano actually sounds at moments like it's originally intended to. Together they explore the limits of musicality, the foggy place where ambient sound and lyricism merge, where surprise and vision converge, probing and softly creating at the same time. 

Their musical universe is at once introspective and expressive, calm, controlled, precise, tender and sad. The tone of despair that characterises Küchen's solo albums is not really present here, but it's not cheerful either. You can only let these two artists guide you, take you along on their journey, to enjoy the wonder and soothing quality of their fragile sonic texture, the experience of new sounds, articulating equally new feelings and aesthetics.

We can only hope they continue their explorative journey together. 

The music was recorded at Borlunda Church, Eslöv, February 16-17, 2022.

Listen and download from Bandcamp