Xavier Charles/Bertrand Gauguet

Spectre
Akousis Records AK 001

Changing designated locations in this six episode adventure in acoustic cosmos exploration, Xavier Charles and Bertrand Gauguet have neither the space hardware nor the futuristic craft of equivalent protagonists Kirk’s and Spock’s interstellar journeys. Instead Charles has only his clarinet and Gauguet his alto saxophone, both of which are played acoustically or amplified in their sonic travels.

Recorded in Reims and Le Havre, Spectre is the culmination of duet improvising which has been part of Charles’ and Gauguet’s oeuvre since 2013. Experiments here touch on breath, multiphonic and spatial concerns. By extension though, the duo’s creativity in informed by their other work. The clarinettist is involved in multiple collaborations with musicians ranging from John Butcher to Ingar Zach. Also a composer of electronic music and soundtracks, Gauguet also works with improvisers like Andrea Neumann and Eddie Prévost.

Burbling reeds are blended so that split tones are extended with additional multiphonics. These encompass airs ranging from chunky to wispy and from dark to light during three variants of "Phonomnèse”. Picking up additional timbres as they connect during the more extended “Phonomnèse 1” and “Phonomnèse 2”, forward motion is defined, as “Phonomnèse 3” as only a brief coda. From the start, laconic reed narratives are layered to approximate a solid mass. Yet the concentrated result is still permeable enough so that individual instrument timbres are present like raised skin tags on the epidermis. Demarcation is clear however since “Phonomnèse 2” includes reed warbles and ring-modulator-like gonging, with more timbres exposed before fading. Expelled spits and echoes illuminates “Point Fantôme”, as penetrating tones turn from watery to ferocious until detaching wafts lead to stasis before a final upsurge. The harshest intersection though is on the extended “Étendue 2”, where woodwind amplification produces thicker and louder sonic slabs that build up to thunderstorm proportions. Rattling drones, magnified to near ear-splitting metal wrenching textures mark the climax.

Anything but diaphanous, this Spectre is for those who can accept vigorous and unvarnished timbres.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Phonomnèse 1 2. Étendue 1 3. Point Fantôme 4. Phonomnèse 2 5. Étendue 2 6. Phonomnèse 3

Personnel: Xavier Charles (acoustic and amplified clarinet) and Bertrand Gauguet (acoustic and amplified alto saxophone)