The Third Ear Band

À La Face Du Ciel! (SHHPUMA SHH022CD / CLEAN FEED RECORDS) is a superb record of free improvisation and another very successful meeting between Jean-Marc Foussat, the Algerian synth player and electronic music maestro, and João Camões, the Portuguese viola player (also from Open Field Trio and Earnear). In June 2016 I raved about Bien Mental, an intense record they made with Claude Parle. À La Face Du Ciel is not as “wild” as that release, nor is it intended to be; “more intimate and introspective results” is how they would describe it, while what I’m feeling on today’s spin is a very heartfelt and rather melancholic range of emotions. Pain, anxiety, fears; many of the modern ailments facing contemporary man are dealt with through musical exploration, which is a very good and sincere way to do it. Please note I am not talking about “confrontational” music which we might get from the “industrial” musician type, one who wishes to bludgeon the listener until we’re the ones feeling the pain. Nor do I refer to the many synth drone players who find it all-too-easy to slip into tones that suggest “unease” and “disquiet”, mostly through lazy keyboard presets. Make no mistake, Foussat and Camões understand that their music is a language, not just an array of sounds, and what we hear on this record is a subtle, nuanced and very genuine articulation of that language.

The notes here point out, quite rightly, that the electronic music of Jean-Marc Foussat has very little to do with contemporary electronica or ambient genres, and has been forged in the heat of improvisations with a number of important avant-garde players since the early 1980s – not to mention his exposure to the genre through acting as sound recordist for many of Derek Bailey’s Company events. “Acting by impulse and always with new ideas” is the apt description given here of his responsive and highly creative approach to collaborative playing. Part of that process involves real-time processing of amplified signals from Camões’ viola, a strategy which takes this (classically-trained) musician somewhat out of his comfort zone, but it’s a bracing experience which he clearly relishes.

They’re able to sustain this high degree of focus and concentration for long periods, as these two tracks (22 mins and 23 mins) testify. Well, while the pair may occasionally tread water on ‘Mécanique Verte’ and lapse into quasi-classical viola phrases on top of electronic drone, it’s still an impressive blend of timbres and textures, packed with detail and very intimate sounds. The main event though is ‘Suite Pour La Troisième Oreille’, a powerful shape-shifting beast which never stays in one place and leads the listener through several genuinely surprising corridors of mental exploration – surely the definition of what “free music” should be doing to earn its keep. The “third eye” is a phrase which can be used as a metaphor for a form of spiritual awakening or discovery, and with the reference here to a “third ear” Foussat and Camões make good on their promise of enlightening the soul of the listener. From 11 July 2016; many thanks to João for sending this.

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