A Chessex, F Meirino, J Noetinger - Maiandros [Cave 12 - 2022]
Free improvisation trio Antoine Chessex, Francisco Meirino and Jérôme Noetinger played an unruly, noisy live performance on the eve of the resumption of lockdown in France, October 28th, 2020. Straddling the worlds of harsh noise, electronic avant garde and free jazz, the intuitively structured cut-up collage found on this brings a surprisingly classic industrial energy, taking me back to 80's Merzbow cassettes and groups like Borbetomagus.
With a large variety of timbres and sounds, it's difficult to pick out the functions of the individual members of the trio. Sun Ra-esque flurries of scalar saxophone mimic the contours of the heavily distorted analog electronic textures, which sound mostly created through tape manipulation or pedals, though there are also metallic clanks and the revving of motors. This raucous call and response that lasts for the first several minutes, for an intro that recalls Pierre Henry or Throbbing Gristle. Resonant filter sweeps and sputtering modulation, like one might hear in Berlin School ambient or musique concrete, bring the classic energy of upper atmospheric and space travel.
As time passes, the pace slows and grim subterranean drones emerge, with the latter half of Side A spent with a backdrop of thick silence and distant 'bumps in the attic'. Overall, the progression of the sounds is whimsical, without much of a particular direction beyond the simple pursuit of interesting timbres. That said, the group passes through numerous natural changes in pacing and density, and frequently changes the central timbres making up the sound.
The lull engulfing the second half of side A is broken when side B introduces a mammoth distorted guitar, a single high gain pitch ringing out throughout the venue, almost overpowering compared to the subtle vagueries of the other elements. Instead of droning in a comfortable manner, the guitar becomes a dissonant, anxiety ridden tone cluster by the 4th minute, seeming to bend upward in an eternal shepherd's tone. The piece continues with greater density than side A, as numerous other sounds strike a dissonant 'harmony' with the underlying guitar noise, creating the impression of numerous animals bleating together as a chorus. Fans of free jazz should be familiar with this kind of cathartic dispellation of anxiety.
This album is well paced and diverse for an improvisatory disk, always searching for new tones and approaches. Staunchly opposed to familiarity and traditional use of instrumentation, this group invites you to simply absorb the texture they have created, and let it massage the ear. I enjoy many of the tones they have created, particularly those of the analog electronics, though I feel that overall the group would benefit from a bit more directedness and specific interplay. The guitar dominated second side feels mundane compared to the ambiguous variety present at the album's beginning. To hook a copy for yourself head here