Contents Under Pressure

French improviser supremo Quentin Rollet teams up with Xavier Mussat on Débordements (REQORDS REQ008 / TOUR DE BRAS TDB9053cd), to create eight splendid whammeroos, varying from textured drones with sumptuous surfaces to strange aggressive noises tempered with sweet saxophone melodies.

Rollet provides most of the honeyed audience-friendly sounds on his alto and sopranino saxophones – I hadn’t noticed before, but he’s capable of rekindling the spirit of Lol Coxhill at times – while it’s left to Xavier Mussat, relative outlier, to let fly with the alien drones, hot punches to the chin, and shocking semi-noiseful moments that jolt and jar. I say “outlier” ref. Xavier since he’s mostly known as an animator, comic book artist, and visual art teacher, one who has recently turned his skilled hand to creating abstract art drawings. That’s his work on the cover (with Eric Normand), which unfolds into a glorious nine-panel affair in black and yellow, contrasting blocky abstract prints with grotesque renditions of ugly faces and bodies undergoing profound changes as they writhe and twist under his pen (he’d have made a great “graphiste” artist, assuming that underground visual art scene from the 1990s is still current in France). Besides his unorthodox career path, Xaiver Mussat also has a non-standard electric guitar – described here as “expanded”, which hopefully means it’s 80 feet wide and equipped with alarm clocks, trip-wires, and torpedoes – with which he wreaks nine types of industrial mayhem in the neighbourhood, plus he’s also very adept with the no-input mixer, manipulating smokey feedback until it behaves like a dancing snake, ready to strike with fangs dipped in purple venom.

Mussat himself is very keen on underlining the difference between his abstract noise and the melodic free improv of his partner Rollet, and states that “we should speak of a fusion…the whole works because we decide to make the difference a reason for trying to get closer”. It’s that process of “getting closer”, and working to actively engage with another mind and another soul, that we can hear clearly laid out on Débordements…they embrace each other like a scorpion and a tapir inside a glass cage…that tension informs almost every minute of music they make together. But it’s not a hostile tension, and they clearly make the differences work in their favour. The French word Débordements can translate as “eruptions” or “outbreaks”, both terms which are very apt for this music, spraying out like jets of water under pressure and nothing can block its flow…all who listen will end up soaked, and better for it. Very good. From 24th March 2022.