December 21, 2017
The Holy Quintet
Mikroton cd 55
Jamie Drouin & Hannes Lingens
By Ken Waxman
Ranging far afield from his Victoria, B.C.-home base, sound artist/composer Jamie Drouin helps animate notable improvisational landscapes on these European-recorded sets. Borough’s two extended tracks find Drouin’s suitcase-sized modular synthesizer and radio put to good use as part of a quintet filled out by London-based David Ryan on bass clarinet, Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga on zither and bassist Dominic Lash, plus another visitor, Berlin-based violist Johnny Chang. A live session concerned with large gestures and confrontational drones, its creative discordance is expressed differently than the program on Alluvium, a Berlin studio meeting between Drouin’s no-input mixer, contact microphone, laptop and radio plus German percussionist Hannes Lingens’ floor tom, snare drum and objects. Together the duo scrupulously explores microtones during nine brief and one extended track.
Barely audible at times, stentorian at others, conventional string and reed textures are used sparingly on Borough. Instead juddering static, sourced from Drouin’s instruments is the overriding motif. Beginning faint and hushed the drones soon spread outwards like the ripples made by a pebble tossed into a still pond. Eventually bent notes from the clarinetist and jagged sul ponticello string scrubs unite in ecclesiastical organ-like tremolos on “One”. Almost twice the length, interaction on “Two” folds similar brief string plucks, percussive objects rolls and shrill reed whistles into an oscillation that is synchronized with the modular loops and ultimately combines to attain a calming finale.
Calm and cacophony strategically appear on Alluvium as well. Oddly placed three-quarters of the way through, the track “(14.42)” is twice as lengthy as the next longest pieces combined. A showcase by default or design, the track demonstrates how flat-line nearly continuous drones can be transformed into the aural equivalent of panoramic scenery with the judicious placement of no-input board platter hisses and scratches as well as percussion pops, drags and splats. The result isn’t harmonious, but it is logical and conclusive. On the remaining tracks, titled by their timings which range from 50 seconds to almost six minutes, the duo sweeps peeps smacks drones and crackles every manner of muted textures from their output(s), with the result that the timbres could be those from a single instrument. Other places, noises that could be attributed to an egg-timer ringing, heavy water gurgling, rocketship launching and an air rifle recoil pop out from among the undulating buzz only to swiftly vanish. By coordinating sounds into a seamless, nearly solid mass, Drouin and Lingens have created an absolute example of selfless improvising as unique in its way as what The Holy Quintet does for long-form interactive improvising.
-For MusicWorks #129 Winter 2017