Posts Tagged ‘unique’

Sub Rosa – 26th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In the scheme of Ghédalia Tazartès singular career, which saw him featured more prominently in dance, theatre, and cinema than on record – a career spanning back to the mid-late 70s yielded just thirteen albums – this release is significant in several ways, not least of all in that it contains probably his final recordings prior to his death in February 2021 at the age of 73. It follows his last album release, Superdisque, which was released a full decade ago, in 2021. It also documents a collaboration that almost never happened.

As the story goes, ‘Tazartès and Chatham had met once in 1977 at CBGC’s and had not seen each other since then when they were asked by their mutual agent to play a private show in Paris. This happened in September 2018 in a house with a garden where sax player Steve Lacy had lived back in the 1990s. This album presents the recording of this show plus another show at La semaine du bizarre festival in Montreuil, France a year later, mixed with a couple of studio sessions.’

Their coming together yields something – and I’ve struggled to find a word that comes anywhere near describing what others have simply classed as ‘indescribable’ and ‘unclassifiable’ – most otherly. Tazartès singing is, in itself not only unique as a style, but also as an experience. It’s less about what it conveys as such, and more about how it touches you. It’s certainly not singing in the conventional sense; and yet, it is very much musical, rather than mere vocalisation. Tazartès sings from different parts of the body, and his voice tremors and quivers, trills, gargles, and ululates.

On the four parts (or ‘actes’) of the ‘Jardin de Simone’ performance, Chatham’s sparse, minimal backings provide a shimmering backdrop that ripples and glimmers softly. On ‘Acte 1’, it’s chiming notes, picked, on a clean electric guitar, while on ‘Acte 2’, it’s wavering woodwind which accompanies Ghédalia’s soft croon. Scraping strings create a dolorous discord alongside a wailing, weeping, skittish vocal performance on ‘Acte 3’ while the fourth and final piece floats into the atmosphere in amorphous waves if sound.

The three parts which make up the ‘Semaine du bizarre’ set are quite different, with Chatham’s backing on the ten-minute ‘Acte 1’ being denser, the electric guitar rattling and with strains of feedback filtering through the stuttering notes. The stutters are not of hesitation, but of tightly-reined tension, and over time the form evolves into an elongated tapering drone. The vocal adopts an almost falsetto-range droning quality, at times shifting to a guttural throb, at others, an open-throated note sustained on, and on. Woodwind drapes and twists around like fingers of mist. In combination, it feels mystical, in an impenetrable, occult way. Overall, this set is more drone-orientated, Tazartès’ vocals venturing more toward the lower register, the growlier, the more atonal. And yet, in places, he soars almost operatically, albeit descending like a punctured bellows after, while the instrumentation wheezes out, fatigued.

The vinyl finds a performance on each side, while the digital version features a bonus cut, appropriately entitled ‘Encore’. This, too, is quite drone-orientated, with the addition of a certain hint of an Eastern twang.

As a whole, Two Men In A Boat feels like a meditative work, and one which exists out of any kind of context, real or imposed. Without any constraints in terms of structure, culture, time, place, or even meaning – explicit or implied – the performers can be found revelling in the freedom of musical explorations. These are songs of the soul, and Two Men In A Boat is a unique document.

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