Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Bertrand Denzler - Arc (Potlatch)

Denzler has created a few of my favorite pieces of music over the last 5 - 10 years, always pushing into areas one doesn't expect, especially from an improvising saxophonist. Here, he enlists the aid of the group, CoÔ, made up of the string section of the fine Ensemble ONCEIM (Patricia Bosshard, violin; Cyprien Busolini, viola; Élodie Gaudet, viola; Anaïs Moreau, cello; Félicie Bazelaire, double bass; Benjamin Duboc, double bass; Frédéric Marty, double bass) in the production of two dense, mysterious and rich works, 'Arc 1.1' and 'Arc 2.1'.

The first is a series of grainy, complex swatches of bowed tones, undulating internally, shifting ground in a fascinating manner, some voices ascending, some static, some shifting unpredictably, the whole emerging as a kind of material--I think of a fabric but one that has the complexity of stone if that makes any sense. There's something of a Niblockian aspect, but smaller scale and isolated, allowing for great penetration into each morsel, at the same time allowing them to be considered side by side as the work progresses. The predominance of low strings provides a wonderful, thick bedrock as well. 'Arc 2.1' is a kind of diptych, the sound unbroken for the first half of its 23 minutes, a brief pause, then continuing. The low, surging lines sound like dopplered airplane engines, the higher strings swirling and eddying like avian murmurations, fluctuating in a seeming random manner but evoking a difficult-to-pin-down logic, ranging ever higher and wispier. Again, the spirit of Niblock seems to hover but Denzler has found his own domain and applied a very fine ear to the strings, the ensemble brilliantly reacting to his requests.

Wonderful, entrancing music--a great job all around.


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