Roulement à Billes

Parisian label Bisou Records is run by Quentin Rollet, who used to run Rectangle Records for a while and is now doing this one…he plays the alto and sopranino sax, not exclusively in a free-improv context we might add. He’s here on Entrée Des Puys De Grêle (BISOU BIS-007-U / FOU RECORDS FR-CD 30) as part of this one-off trio with the drummer Christian Rollet (who just happens to be Quentin’s dad) and Jean-Marc Foussat, the Algerian synthi player whose work is well known in these pages. Matter of fact the CD is jointly released on his own Fou Records label. The trio recorded the sesh in a very nice resort near Auvergne in 2017. Pretty energetic and spirited performances from all three; some highlights include the latter half of ‘Entrée Par La Fenêtre’, where Quent sputters off into Evan Parker overdrive mode and Foussat is roaring like an eerie football crowd – football fans who dig free jazz, in a team where Joe McPhee is the centre-forward… ‘Au Fond Des Puys’ is also notable for the way the threesome keep shifting gears throughout the 27-min duration, sometimes playing that annoying “bitty” style of improv where nothing matches up and the woodwind is hocketing up little toads, sometimes strolling down the byways of noir-ish mystery and far-out Arkestra-type sounds. Even moaning / intoning vocals are allowed into the fray on this try-anything bout, and whether by accident or design the listener will be rewarded with many a dollop of contrasting audio textures to clean their clocks. Drummer Christian has a tough job marshalling these jelly-like cats into a herd, but he just about achieves success in his task with his very “propulsive” style of drumming. We always tip the cap at musicians who can “keep it up” for this long without flagging, and if ‘Au Fond Des Puys’ could be said to be rather directionless, it’s still an unusual and engaging journey and we’re not the same people after we get home to the chateau for a glass of Merlot.

Rollet also puffs it up on our second item, though he’s but one of a foursome of all-star names, and it’s quite some way from a free-jazz workout. On this split The Man Who Floated Away / The Closer You Are To The Center, The Further You Are From The Edge (BIS 006 U CD), which is also released as a vinyl LP, we first are introduced to ‘The Man Who Floated Away’, produced by the pairing of two English underground veterans, Edward Ka-Spel and Steven Stapleton. Bizarre sci-fi synth drones and layered drifty sounds convey an atmosphere of mystery-dreamy-alienation, and while there’s not much in the way of eventful incident or dramatic shift in the mood, there’s still something oddly compelling about the way the limpid pools of murk pull the listener in. On top of this ghastly pallor, Ka-Spel intones his incomprehensible anecdote, muttering and whispering into a reverb chamber with his distinctive sibilants. While I’m personally not much of a NWW or Legendary Pink Dots fan, it’s not hard to see how these two unique creators have garnered their respective cult followings. The second cut is credited to Colin Potter, long-time NWW collaborator, who performs it with Quentin Rollet’s sax breathings and the piano of Isabelle Magnon (house producer for the label). ‘The Closer You Are To The Centre, The Further You Are From The Edge’ is another drifty slow-mover, but the atmosphere and ambience is slightly more menacing; at times it’s like a film-noir soundtrack (or rather a 1980s straight-to-video production that wishes it was film noir and has too many shots of blue neon and rainy streets). There’s even more variety and outright oddness than the Stapleton side, which is saying something; Potter can certainly deliver on the audio-surrealism promise when he puts his mind to it. The treated voices, mangled into nightmarish shapes, are one particularly tasty touch, but I also like the backwards piano which is sparingly used. I found myself growing weary of Quentin Rollet’s contributions though, as his sound is faintly smarmy and over-rich, and he apparently doesn’t know when to stop playing. Babs Santini did the colourful collage artworks. From 5th April 2018.

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