David Chiesa / Jean-Luc Guionnet / Emmanuel Petit / Eric La Casa – BELVEDERE

Creative Sources

Although there are several notable examples of what our Editor-In-Chief has dubbed “environmental improvisation”, I can say without doubt that this is one of the most accomplished ones I’ve heard. Microphones were placed in and around the Villa Adriana, in the Ardèche department in southern France, home to a M. René Quinon (to whom the record is dedicated), each feeding a mixer sensitively manoeuvred by Eric La Casa, and the musicians walked in and out following their own instrumental signals, “working on the construction of a sort of an abstract and tentacle-like belvedere plunged into the acoustic space of the place”. Amidst the ever wonderful singing of various kinds of birds and the unbelievably tuned buzz of the insects, listening to these rarefied sounds is a privilege. The most striking tones come from Guionnet, who explores resonant corners with his alto saxophone by playing long extracorporeal lines that send those auricular membranes into defence mode (all the while eliciting an interested response from some of his chirping buddies), until he ambles out and around with short staccato blasts that almost catch us by surprise, tiny smoke clouds which the gentle luminosity of the day turns into silky whispers of pliable truth. Chiesa’s double bass is a house within the house, his bow murmuring on the strings with religious respect for silence, clicking microsounds like wood cracking and giving under the heat – picture an enlarged sonic photograph of Nikos Veliotis taken by Mark Dresser. Guitarist Petit remains barely visible, yet his feedback heightens the sense of tranquillity and excites wasps and flies, whose constant drone becomes a garden ceremony. Waves of charged string resonance – an infinitesimal fraction of Chatham/Branca-like turbulence – cross paths with Chiesa’s vibrational sensitivity and Guionnet’s ghost notes, skeletal textures reacting to the kind of magic that the Villa Adriana seems to transmit to the artists in their obscure evocation of inscrutable figures who approach, summoned by the sound, but remain too shy to show their handsome faces. The concluding dialogue between Guionnet, a passing plane and the forest voices is finally interrupted by a car stopping nearby, abruptly indicating that it’s time to go. Too bad.

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