Rivers of the World

Highly unusual performance record of drones, hums and growly toots by Sainct Laurens, a duo of players, in the form of their album Volume 2 (ETRC019) on the Canadian label E-Tron Rec. Montreal players Pierre-Yves Martel and Philippe Lauzier thrive in a marginal sidebar of free improvisation, clearly wanting nothing to do with those energetic sort of players who sweat it up, blart it out, and skitter about with their free-form blurts in manic passion-fuelled bouts. Instead, these two introverts exude a form of rigid control; every note they make seems to be surrendered reluctantly, and at some cost to their own physical comfort. They’ll only make an utterance if the occasion demands it, like two abstemious Quakers at a prayer meeting. They almost seem to be exploring each musical encounter anew, rather than setting out in advance knowing what they will discover.

Second noteworthy element is the unusual choice of instrumentation, which includes a viole de gambe, a bass clarinet, found objects, and amplifier feedback. Only the woodwind half of the act (Lauzier, who also blows an alto and soprano sax) allows this release to be at all recognisable as free improv, and hence gathered in the “jazz” racks at the local record store. There also seems to be something going on with prepared strings, so that one of them (Martel most likely) comes across as a low-key avant-garde miniature Gamelan ensemble, with muffled percussive blows. Their slightly stilted method, combined with their unusual sound, makes the album a winner for me; when they reach the sweet spot of unearthly tone blends, it’s near-delirious. The pair have come our way before on the album La Formule XYZ in 2012, where they did it with Martin Tétreault to great effect. From 9th February 2015.