Audiolab – Arteleku / ERTZ

The title, translated from Basque, means “a tendency to lie”, a vague reference to the motivations behind this set, recorded at the Altzate Church of Bera (Nafarroa) during the 2008 edition of the ERTZ Other Music festival. Guionnet was supposed to perform a solo concert on the church organ but found a completely different situation waiting for him: instead of majestic lines of pipes spreading along the walls, he got a malfunctioning electric instrument and a PA. Making a virtue of necessity, he launched himself in an improvisation that exploited everything that wasn’t working, and then some. At first, we’re welcomed by seemingly interminable silence, broken only by the outside traffic noise (“oh no, here we go again” my initial reaction in anticipation of the umpteenth helping of reductionist imbecility), but then Guionnet starts kicking the beast quite effectively, producing a series of crusty noises and incoherent hammered changes – imagine trying to listen to Radio Vaticana in a sandstorm. When the derelict “organ” accepts that Guionnet is indeed the man to bring it back to life, the fun really begins. Earthquake-like vibrations in the low register stretched together with high-pitched codes get jumbled in massive superimpositions of disfigured harmonic stasis, ultimately collapsing into stylistic degeneration. Stabbing fixity and threatening emphasis overwhelm a quiet audience. Anyone remember Thomas Demenga and Heinz Reber’s Cellorganics? Guionnet lands (involuntarily) in similar territory, the resulting music perhaps a little more dramatic, stripped bare without rounded corners or concessions to easiness. The warm applause saluting him at the conclusion is unquestionably deserved.