The Other Side of Chaos

From Cave12 in Geneva, both a recording arena and a production studio, we have the collected efforts of three major European improvisers Antoine Chessex, Francisco Meirino and Jérôme Noetinger on the LP Maiandros (C!2A 08). The three of them are noising it up with gusto and force majeur on these live recordings made in 2020. At one time this might have passed for “electro-acoustic improvisation” when that term was in currency, though we might also say they’re building on the basic model of Borbetomagus and filtering that bold American energy through a more refined European consciousness.

In terms of instrumentation, it’s Chessex who’s puffing the tenor sax but also doing so with benefit of amplification and live electronics, the latter in a way that recalls our other Swiss friends Voice Crack (heroes of electronic noise from the 1980s and 1990s). Meirino (who now I look at his past entries hasn’t always managed to impress the customs officers with his patchy efforts, but now redeems himself) has a modular synth and also the “transducteur”, then there’s French madman Noetinger spinning the crazed wheels of his Revox B77 tape recorder with the same abandon as a naked loon running amok across the grounds of a stately home during a thunderstorm. At one level there’s too much intensity here to separate out the sounds, and one may complain that the ‘Cocyte & Phlegethon’ is too shrill and that ‘Tunnel’ is too claustrophobic, but it’s the combined mayhem that passes on the desired cathartic swellings, without necessarily resulting in the destruction of the town square or neighbouring regions.

Keywords from the hysterical press note seem to be “corrosive”, “disturbing”, “tension” and “cannibalism”, along with the “unrecognizable saxophone chants from Hell” which are always popular. Then there’s the black and white cover art, which sits just on the right side of controlled chaos, not quite abstract or wild enough to be mistaken for Franz Kline. I love to wallow in this impolite inky bath of stinky horse swill, even if there isn’t quite the redemptive payoff you might expect – it’s pretty much 40 mins of mindless pumping action without ever achieving an orgasm. (14/04/2022)

Gonçalo F. Cardoso with his latest collection of field recordings which is Impressões de Outra Ilha (Borneo) (DISCREPANT CREP79). Actually more like field-recordings-plus, because he’s doing a lot of enhancements in the way of adding synth sounds, live edits, after-the-fact transformations, sometime doing it right there in situ much like a bold landscape painter who braves the elements while his canvas threatens to fly away in the high winds and rain is dripping on his pallet and brushes. Cardoso made this journey in 2016, but he’s no stranger to travelling to exotic locales (exotic to me, anyway), and his supporters wish to make it plain he’s a true “traveller” who is 100% simpatico with the countries he visits, not some greedy tourist or despoiling colonial looter. While in the Malaysian part of Borneo Island, he beheld and beheard weather, landscapes, temples, wildlife, and national parks, only rarely straying into a more urbanised region and preferring to face the raw charms of nature as plain as a rind of bacon. It’s debatable whether he’s revealing a hidden “truth” about the environment, but I’d like to think there’s a kind of heightened realism in his intense (though short) episodes, where his subtle interventions and twists do much to jolt our senses into action. To put it another way, you can almost smell the jungle scents as you listen. He also uses his track titles to hint at poetic dimensions, without resorting to crazy juxtapositions. He did the photos on the cover too, making another satisfying and complete package. Vinyl only issue. (03/03/2022)

From Norway, composer and player Hans P. Kjorstad is attempting an ambitious work with his Avkjølinghistorie (MOTVIND MOT18LP). It’s trying to tell the history of the world from prehistoric times to the present day, looking at certain defining moments, and including the evolution of life and extinction of species. Kjorstad has done his homework and researched what he can about the geological history of our globe, and arrives at the conclusion that “it was terribly hot in the beginning. Since then, it has changed a lot”. To be fair it’s much wider and deeper than that, as our man aims to include poetical, philosophical and mystical dimensions to the grand scheme, and it’s not just geology but also lifeforms, the workings of the brain, and the many levels of consciousness.

To realise this multi-faceted work, he’s drawn in other fine players such as Anja Laudval, Fredrik Rasten, Ole-Henrik Moe and many others – all playing a form of modern chamber music with their acoustic instruments (strings, brass, woodwind) and adding bird flute sounds to this unique vision of the earth’s creation and formation. In fact it seems the work was scored for these very players (who bring their own personalities to the music). Hans P. Kjorstad gives everyone enough space to conduct these “explorations in sound” and hopes to arrive at abstracted visions of the forces of nature that fascinate him so much. His understanding of geology has led him to perceive these various eras, from Jurassic to Cambrian, as a form of “ancient structure” which can be used to compose music, using prehistoric data as a form of graphical score, perhaps.

No doubt that the prehistory of the world is a fit subject for a modern composer, and it’s been tackled by everyone from Parmegiani to Haydn. Myself, I was hoping for a bit more drama, content, and import from such a profound source, but Avkjølinghistorie doesn’t move me much; it’s either grey and shapeless groaning, or rather twee folk-inflected harmonic passages. Kjorstad did the cover designs and printed them himself (using woodcuts), and according to the back cover he sees his musical team as players on a football pitch. (04/04/2022)

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