Posts Tagged ‘Bass Clarinet’

Les Albums Claus – 30th April 2018

Stuart Bateman

Ben Bertrand comes armed with a bass clarinet and a bunch of effects. Recorded live at les ateliers claus in October 2017, NGC 1999 doesn’t sound in any way live, and the five pieces feel very structured and are sequenced in a most cohesive fashion. While the number of singer-songwriters using loop pedals to fill out their sound seemed to explode about 12 years ago, to the point that it’s long been tedious and predictable to witness someone with an acoustic guitar and a little synth layering up the vocals and building simple three-chord strums up to epic choral dimensions.

Bertrand’s application of the equipment is both more subtle and more innovative. The repetitive motifs ripple and bounce against one another, and while there is layering, Bertrand’s restraint is noteworthy, keeping things sparse, low-key, minimal.

Taking its title from a dust-filled bright nebula in the constellation of Orion, 1,500 light years from earth – and distinctive for a black patch at its centre which is believed to be completely empty – the compositions are thematically-linked and contrive to convey a sense of floating in space.

Things to threaten to spiral out of control with shrill, electronic whistles sending the end of ‘V380 Orionis’ (a multiple star system at the centre of Orion and the primary source of light for NGC 1999) skyward. But thereafter it’s very much sparser and quieter. ‘Malkauns on Kitt Peak’ brings a change of tone for the album’s mid-point: a hushed, brooding expanse of elongated pulses which echo out into the darkness, it’s spacious yet strangely airless. For the first time on the album, the clarinet sounds like a clarinet as it meanders through a fizz of skittering treble that falls like shooting stars.

The pieces flow together and transition effortlessly as Bertrand bounces through the abyss with an assurance and tranquillity that’s soothing, but nevertheless strange.

AA

Ben Bertrand – NGC 1999

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SOFA – SOFA 556 – 7th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Within a few weeks of moving into my current home, there was an immense storm, which led to my discovery that it wasn’t water-tight, on account of a) having no cover over the letter box b) some defective guttering c) a gap between the roof tiles and the brick work. Consequently, this – admittedly unusually heavy – downpour resulted in there being a pool of water, an inch or so deep and over two feet in circumference just inside my front door. Ok, it was more of a puddle than an actual pond, but the anecdote serves to illustrate that the surrealist image conjured by the title of Philippe Lauzier’s second album is neither strange nor funny when the abstract notion becomes an actual lived experience.

The album’s four tracks are built around multiple tracks of bass clarinet, but there is nothing on A pond in my living room which could be readily identified by ear alone as being woodwind, and the longform compositions are explorations of sound rather than structure, with not a trace of jazz or orchestral influence to be heard.

‘Bleu Pénombre’ opens the album in a long, swirling churn of feedback. Gradually, layers of sound build, granular textures roughen the surface of the undulating, elongated multitonal humming. It’s a richly atmospheric composition, which suggests a preoccupation with the relationships between sounds as much as with the sounds themselves. Higher pitches and nagging oscillations emerge as ‘Bleu Pénombre’ bleeds into the uneasy ‘Water Sprinkling’. The notes quiver and ripple, like a mirage through a heat-haze. Sharp blasts of white noise fizz against the creeping whines which populate the sparse, eerie ‘On the Window Side’. The result is ominous, unsettling, with the unpredictably-placed shards of static adding moments of shock to the tension which Lauzier sustains over the full duration of the ten-minute piece, which culminates in a dark, rhythmic pulsation.

None of the sound contained on the album carries connotations of water, or even any overt reference to the surreal juxtaposition the title suggests, but this only accentuates the air of abstraction which hangs over the album as a whole. The final track, ‘Napping in a Neglected Garden’ yawns and grates, a metallic creak like a rusty gate opening and closing replayed in half-time dominates the haunting eleven-and-a-half-minute work. Gradually, the slow, natural rhythm becomes subject to disruption and halting adjustments bring further disruption and twist the listener’s sensory adjustment.

A pond in my living room is more effective and affecting by virtue of its comparatively subtle approach. A pond in my living room is not a loud album, and does not rely on harsh textures and tones to achieve its discomforting impact.

Philippe Lauzier - Pond