Joke Lanz & Jonas Kocher

Abstract Musette
Corvo Records core 018

Joëlle Léandre, Pascal Contet


We Insist! Records CD WE N12

Sophisticates squeeze box set ups, these sessions synthesize the contributions of accordion payers in either acoustic or electric improvisations. Swiss accordion player Jonas Kocher who has spent years probing the complex extensions available from tremolo timbres with such associates as Christoph Kurzmann and Michel Doneda moves another pace outside on Abstract Musette, partnered with Basel native Joke Lanz. For unlike even the electro-acoustic assemblages in which Kocher has been involved in the past, Lanz, who has worked in a similar manner with everyone from Peter Kowald to Audrey Chen sources his timbres by manipulating vinyl on turntables. Anything but electric, except in performance though, AREA SISMICA is another recorded chapter in the decades-long affiliation between French accordionist Pascal Contet, who also composes soundtracks and Paris bassist Joëlle Léandre, who has played with nearly everyone in

Working through a collection of tracks which are mostly in the less-than-one-minute or slightly-over-two-minute range, the Musette face-off usually involved tremolo patterning from Kocher, frequently from the lowest pitches of the scale and the turntable’s contrapuntal comments. Depending on the circumstances electronic static, drones or squeals predominate or in other cases snatches of pre-recorded male or female voices, cut off, repeated or imploded are heard. Without clear comprehension that vocal mumbling becomes strictly onomatopoeia, adding new tinctures to Lanz’s sonic output, which otherwise defines its territory with vinyl scratches and motor rumbles. Squeeze box glissandi is audible on “Tokkata”, “El Biscotto” and “Les Flonflons”. But almost as soon as musette-like squeals are recognizable they’re deconstructed into basso rumbles and matched with vinyl synthesis and vocal burps before being subsumed by reflective turntable jitters.

With other tracks tersely emphasizing percussion-like pulsations and whistling distortions as the tone arm needle presses against the platter without LP intervention, or field-recorded voices sped up from 331/3 to 78 rpm; “Rêve De Clarinette” stands out for its sense of development. As extended whistles move past static crackles to emphasize bellows-shaded lowing and shrill signs, a fluid exposition is delineated with stop-time repetition confirming the theme. Then the subsequent “Swing Valse”, while still not swinging, it becomes a coda to the preceding track, with strained and juddering accordion tones moving to a conclusive end. By this point the last tracks, “Premier Rendez-vous” and “Tango Lalandais”, move the narrative in double counterpoint. On the first, squeeze box glissandi, peeps and beeps take on horn or percussion inferences as they ambulate beside turntable deconstruction. The final “Tango Lalandais” is a showcase of Lanz’s instrument shading, fluttering and jittering as paced accordion tones provide a solid undertow that becomes an exercise in off-kilter march time.

On the other hand veteran associates Léandre and Contet begin their live concert with the longest and most intense improvisation. Featuring fluid accordion whooshes and florid arco vamps from the bassist, the two move from moderato to multphonics with contrasting pumps and burbles. At the same time among the airy echoes and expelled vibrations, thickening output from both players means that the narrative stays low pitched and abrasive. This variant of parry-and-thrust continues though the other six variations of “area sismica”. Squealing and slithering the string and bellows textures encompass staccato and slack; near-inaudible and stentorian; and sudden jumps or level motion. Whether by accident or design “area sismica IV” and “area sismica V” end up being showcases of Contet or Léandre respectively. On the first the accordionist produces massive pipe organ-like glissandi throughout that are decorated with the occasional higher-pitched jiggle from his other hand plus bass string buzzes. The second emphasizes the woodiness of the bass with surface rubs alternating with spiccato movements and eventually spiraling stops that swiftly swell to an applauded ending.

Before that, “area sismica III” stretches the interface still further when Léandre challenges Contet’s spreading out shrilling with verbal gurgles and growls that move between Edith Piaf-like excess and bel canto whispers. Finally reaching a crescendo her bedlam-styled murmurs join squeeze box cross tone and pitches and her own triple pumping. With the two final, post applause tracks more encores than extended codas, expected and unexpected timbres from each continue to complement each others’ lines. Attaining a sequence of polytonal peeps in the calliope register from the squeeze box plus echoing low-pitched pumps from the double bass, the duo finishes with the same power with which it began.

It might be more prominent in other musical circumstances, but these unique sessions thoroughly confirm the accordion’s place in advanced music.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Abstract: 1. Coeur Chavire 2. Mon Amant De Paris 3. Thousand Flowers 4. El Gato Grande 5. Tokkata 6. El Biscotto 7. Les Flonflons 8. Ce Soir C’est La Fête 9. Family Country 10. Balcon Mexicain 11. Rêve De Clarinette 12. Swing Valse 13. Veuve Clicquot 14. Premier Rendez-vous 15. Tango Lalandais

Personnel: Abstract: Jonas Kocher (accordion) and Joke Lanz (turntables)

Track Listing: AREA: 1. area sismica I 2. area sismica II 3. area sismica III 4. area sismica IV 5. area sismica V 6. area sismica VI 7. area sismica VII

Personnel: AREA: Joëlle Léandre (bass) and Pascal Contet (accordion)