The man with the horn(s)

Philippe Lauzier

A series of solo investigations into various woodwinds with some ‘motorized bells’ (whatever they are) thrown in for good measure, from the Montreal-based improviser and composer. Lauzier works with bass and half-bass clarinet and alto and soprano saxophones; sometimes he amplifies or multitracks the explorations to fill out the sound, but for the most part it’s just him and the horn.

That said, it’s not as austere as you’d expect. ‘Empoigner’’s bass clarinet clicks and squeaks are pretty minimal, true, but the rest of the record is full of life and quirks. ‘Geyser’ is just under four minutes of bubbling and hissing with an almost inaudible whine underscoring, like a giant kettle (or, in fact, a geyser). Meanwhile, ‘Pigment’, is a less liquid, more angular, a whistling, popping piece. Despite its analogue origins, it sounds atonally digital, as if it were generated by the sound card of some primitive computer. ‘Bruine’ – the final track on the album, and the only one not created with a woodwind instrument (it’s those pesky mechanical bells) – is a gorgeous and glistening sheet of sound.

Lauzier provides a succinct yet comprehensive summary on the back of the CD to explain which instrument was used for each piece, and which, if any treatments were applied. So, for, example, it is interesting to know that ‘En-Dessus’’s long, uneasy drone was made by four multi-tracked bass clarinets, and surprising to find ‘Gisement’’s grind and roar is unadulterated bass clarinet.

Listening to this record, I keep feeling I’m eavesdropping on a roomful of instruments after their players have gone home. The tracks are like exhalations, utterances, cries, conversations, the instruments playing themselves. The seesawing wheeze of Interlignes is like an alto saxophone stretching and relaxing after a long day in the orchestra pit. The Evan-Parker-on-holiday-style trilling of ‘Au-Dessus’ is the soprano saxophone’s joyful, bird-like preening. ‘Silhouette’ advances slowly, like a panther picking its way through long grass.

Lauzier has put together an intriguing collection of pieces for this record, which open our ears to the possibilities of his chosen instruments. An engrossing listen.