Finn Loxbo/Erik Blennow Calälv

Snow Country
Creative Sources 490 CD

Jean-Brice Godet

ÉpiphaniesKBRo

Gigantonium GIG 004 GOD1

Two contrasting methods of involving clarinets in the furthest reaches of experimental music could be termed the Heavy Metal verses the Reductionist approach. Needless to say these aren’t CDs to play for those animated by Benny Goodman or Mozart’s clarinet concertos. Or perhaps this is unfair for anyone could be drawn in to these reconfigurations of the clarinet’s standard role.

Paris-based Jean-Brice Godet, who has played with other sound experimenters like Pascal Niggenkemper and Matthew Bourne, leans towards the intractable fortitude on Épiphanies’ eight selections. His strategy mixes side-slipping or overblown reed textures with those textures from Dictaphone and a portable radio. Coming from a stance of meiosis is Swedish bass clarinetist Erik Blennow Calälv, who has worked with musicians such as Katt Hernandez. On Snow Country’s five selections he intermingles understated reed timbres with similar sound fabric contours from the guitar and musical saw [!] of Finn Loxbo, who has played with Mats Gustafsson.

Featuring the now-common trope of radio-captured voices and music bleeding through the sound of reed undulations and buzzes, then amplified with key and tongue popping and clunking defines Godet’s clarinet tones exposure on tracks such as “Dans la matière” and “Well You Know”. But the blowing is segmented with amplified arabesques and watery discursions that appear to emanate more from the niches of the instrument’s mouthpiece and bell. At the same these identifiable tones share space with Dictaphone static, mumbles and articulation of phrases radio-captured from speakers of both French and English. Someone who creates live soundtracks for silent films, some of the other tracks, such as “L’absence” relate to that concept, with segments consisting of male and female voices sourced from a broadcast plus a smarmy, string-laden French chanson from the same source. Sharing space with this are backwards tape flanges and instrumental trills and fades. While not all of these voice/machine/instrument blends work, they add to the CD’s evolution. Equally necessary are bravura reed demonstrations such as on “Continuum”, where a variant of circular breathing moves from chalumeau upwards into smooth or spiky timbres and adumbrating later reed dissonance as loops and echoes create more sonic épiphanies on their own.

If Godet’s sound conception illustrate theories via modernist, somewhat electronic implements, then Calälv’s and Loxbo’s musical vision is tinged with acoustic rusticity. Beginning with near stasis as singular strums and individual puffs hang in the air with near insouciance, by the appropriately named “Moving, Dancing” and then “Ryoanji” a varoiant of action arrives. Soon the two move from quiet equilibrium to reed tones swelling that ultimately snarls into spetrofluctuation and finger vibrations, with equal animation coming from the guitarist’s slurred fingering. The culmination results in balanced improvisations that mask pressurized cores beneath a tranquil surface.

In their own fashion each disc proves that unexpected clarinet uses create challenging yet nimbly insinuating programs at faint or at full volume. Both deserve investigation.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Épiphanies: 1. Ouverture 2. Dans la matière 3. Well You Know 4. Petit Poeme Symphonique 5. Continuum 6. L’absence 7. Dans les Asperites 8. Final

Personnel: Épiphanies: Jean-Brice Godet (Dictaphone, radio, clarinet)

Track Listing: Snow: 1. Ghosts 2. Clouds 3. Moving, Dancing 4. Ryoanji 5. Ayam

Personnel: Snow: Erik Blennow Calälv (bass clarinet) and Finn Loxbo (guitar, musical saw)