Benoȋt Kilan & Jean-Luc Petit

La Nuit Circonflexe
Fou Records FR-CD25

Jean-Brice Godet

Lignes de Crêtes

Clean Feed CF406 CD

Coupling extended reed textures with equally unique similar one created by percussion and/electronic implements is a challenge taken up by representatives of two generations if French reed players on these discs. Resulting in similar intriguing tonalities, one has its genesis in the familiar reed-bass-drum combo, while the other adapts expressions midway between notated New Music and improvisation. Jean-Brice Godet adds radio and Dictaphones to his clarinets, while percussionist Sylvain Darrifourcq also plays zither and Pascal Niggenkemper bass and objects on Lignes de Crêtes’s four selections. Meanwhile on La Nuit Circonflexe, Jean-Luc Petit matches his reed timbres to the buzzing tremors from Benoît Kilian’s percussion and grosse caisse or oversized horizontal drum.

Petit, the older of the two reedists has played in large ensembles, composed for theatre and collaborated with the likes of Didier Lasserre, Daunik Lazro and even Godet. Kilan who concentrates on the gigantic percussion instrument has worked with improvisers as different as Jérôme Noetinger and Benjamin Duboc, More affiliated to the Free Jazz genre, despite a degree from IRCAM, Godet has also recorded with the likes of Michaël Attias and Joëlle Léandre. Darrifourcq often works with Roberto Negro and his own bands, while in performances from solo to big bands Niggenkemper is one of the busiest bassist in North America and Europe.

Craftily using procedures that range from barely-there reed squeezes to quickened growls and overblowing, Godet easily makes a place for his tone amplification within and among the concentrated timbres from various objects. This is made clear on the introductory “No Border”. Niggenkemper’s powerful bass pulse is reminiscent of The Necks bassist’s stream-of-consciousness rhythmic thrust, while the resonating percussion and object scrapping create a landscape of vibrating tones. Together the rhythm section members set up a droning continuum over which the clarinetist’s woody circular breathing trills and flying variations make their mark. Meeting the sonic challenges from the bassist’s spiccato slides and the percussionist’s rugged, door-knocking-like patterns, Godet mixes spot-on coloratura or chalumeau register lows to assert his role.

Variants of these strategies are used through the performances with the high point occurring with the extended “No God”. Including enough squeaks, plonks, rolls and beats to frighten the pious, the clarinet’s sometimes muted, often melodic solos contain staccato flutter-tonguing and insinuations that uncoupled parts of the instrument are being sounded at various junctures. If this isn’t enough to raise the spectre of the ungodly, concentrated bass string pumps and rubs plus unexpected hip-hop beats from the percussionist add to the impious or perhaps nihilistic excursion. While not abandoning musical atheism to agnosticism or religious fervor, the three don’t need divine intervention to spectacularly stretch the theme heavenward and then unite altissimo trills, multi-textured string-stopping and peppy drum beats into a climax both mortal and moving.

With unique extended tones often propelled from both Kilan and Petit as opposed as God and the devil, La Nuit Circonflexe is another exercise in animated sound extension that develops into a closely attuned payoff. Essentially the top rubs, side thwacks and deep-toned resonations from the horizontal drum are matched with equally low-pitched growls from the contrabass clarinet as well as higher-pitched and sometimes melodic tones from alto and sopranino saxophones. Sometimes the duet evolves in microseconds; elsewhere in longer passages. In a track like “remous des dunes” for instance, the expressive drone could arise from any subset of percussion and reeds. Yet the theme turns ambulatory as drum top stroking is modulated by pinpointed circularly breathed puffs from Petit. Tongue slaps and dissonant vibration expelled with the width of a cornucopia create distinctive textures that challenge percussive harshness, expressed not only by snoring reverberations from Kilian’s oversized drum, but also from cymbal clangs and crashes. Without electronic interface, repeated linear slides on to top of the grosse caisse create an equivalent continuum to one which would arise with signal processing.

All these tropes are brought into play in the final “les boréales saignés”. Wiggling and jiggling textures from both players take the form of high-pitched doits and fluttering ripples from the reedist and primitivist bangs and rolls from the percussionist. Equivalently harmonizing the pressurized ostinato created by a shaking drum textures, Petit’s multiple reed squeaks make it appear as if more than one reed instrument is simultaneously being played. Finally the climax is reached with as snorting basso trills lock into thick pitter patter from the drummer.

As original as one can be by adding unexpected instruments and instrumental textures to conventional reed, string and percussion instruments, both CDs offer plenty of unprecedented improvisational smarts.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Lignes: 1. No Border 2. No Logo 3. No God 4. No Fear

Personnel: Lignes: Jean-Brice Godet (clarinets, radio and Dictaphones); Pascal Niggenkemper (bass and objects) and Sylvain Darrifourcq (drums, percussions, and zither)

Track Listing: Nuit: 1. gazouillis fragile d’inconsolés soleils 2. remous des dunes 3. alluvions des graves 4. au tourment du désert oxide nuit circonflexe 6. les boréales saignés

Personnel: Nuit: Jean-Luc Petit (contrabass clarinet and alto and sopranino saxophones) and Benoît Kilian (large horizontal drum)