at39 Spiral Inputs
Sophie Agnel piano
Bertrand Gauguet alto and soprano saxophones
Andrea Neumann piano frame & electronics
4 tracks total time 51:20
recorded in Mulhouse, February 2010 and Le Garric, June 2008
Interview with Bertrand Gauguet, March 2011
“There was a speaker under the piano frame which only broadcast the sounds of the alto saxophone...”
I sent a copy of ‘Spiral Inputs’ to someone without telling him what it was. He was very enthusiastic, and said that “from the first moments you know you’re in safe hands”. By this he meant that there’s a confidence and cohesiveness in the interplay between the three of you that is remarkable. So when and how did the trio come into being, and – given that you all live in different cities - how much have you worked together as a group?
- Sophie and I originally had a duo, but we wanted to develop it into a trio. As we wanted the music to be oriented towards electronics, we contacted Andrea. We first worked as a trio during a residency at GMEA d’Albi in France and had our first concert there in June 2008. The central feature of this residency was that we should work with the sound technician Benjamin Maumus, in order to carry out explorations using amplification and the experience of listening in a playing situation. Benjamin set up a system whereby our sounds were distributed more or less randomly across 15 speakers, and so our sonic sources were being widely diffused in a way that modified our processes of listening.
Later we had another residency which was organised by the Festival Météo in Mulhouse, where we did two concerts. So we haven’t played together all that often, but when we have, we’ve had both the time and space to explore together.
Tell me a bit more about the electronic diffusion of your sounds. Was it a strange experience to hear ‘your’ sounds coming from elsewhere? And did it change the way you played and listened?
- Yes, very much. For example, there was a speaker under the piano frame which only broadcast the sounds of the alto saxophone, and another underneath that which carried Andrea's sounds. And there was another right next to me which only broadcast the piano, and so on. Benjamin worked with the spatial diffusion while we were playing, which had the effect of troubling our sense of the sound sources and the sound balance so that a different sonic image was produced. Listening to and playing in this way drew you into a sense of losing control, forcing us to de-centre our methods of playing and listening. It was a truly enriching experience.
In ‘Spiral Inputs’ melodic elements are used to an extent that’s unusual in improvisation. It’s not that there are any tunes, but there are certainly places where melody is used alongside more customary ‘abstract’ textural sounds. Was this something that you decided to explore, or did it just happen?
- It just happened !
The melodic elements, together with the cohesiveness of the music, made me wonder to what extent these pieces are ‘free improvisation’. Did you prepare or rehearse the music in any way?
- Some of the pieces were improvised without any prior discussion. But others were the end result of a process of research into our different ways of playing, the different materials we use, and into the ways in which we listen and react to each other.
Tell me a bit about yourself. When did you start playing improvised music?
- I became committed to this area of music after meeting Michel Doneda in 1999, and then Barre Phillips the following year. As a result of these encounters I was able to see more clearly what areas I wanted to focus on, areas that I was already exploring intuitively both with the saxophone and with electronics. It was at this time that I also began organising concerts in Rennes and founded a group for working in interdisciplinary arts
Who are the players who have affected you the most?
- Aside from the two musicians I mentioned before, the players who stand out for me (and for very different reasons) are probably: Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, John Butcher, Axel Dörner, Lê Quan Ninh, Otomo Yoshihide and John Tilbury.
What direction do you see yourself following in the near future?
- I want to continue the work I’ve done with electronics, which is something I’ve let slip a bit recently, so this year I have a residency at Muse en Circuit where I want to produce an album. As for improvisation, there are lots of new pathways that I’m exploring, but I’d rather not talk about them until they’ve become more concrete….
Explain a bit more about your work with electronics. I’ve only heard you on saxophone, and didn’t realise you’ve had a long-term involvement with electronics as well.
– It's a part of my work that's remained fairly obscure up to now. I produced some electronic pieces for artists'
films, for choreographers and also for the radio. It's a music that you could describe as lo-fi but which is also
abstract and has narrative elements.
From outside, France appears to offer a lot more state support for experimental musicians than most other countries. I’m sure the reality probably isn’t so rosy, but does the system there make it viable for people like to you make a living from the music?
- In France there’s a mechanism whereby if an artiste can prove that he or she has a certain number of professional engagements, then they are entitled to a monthly allowance from the state on which you can live. But this system has been dramatically tightened in recent years and many artistes have lost that status. For musicians involved in experimental work such as improvisation, it’s often particularly difficult to maintain your status because of the commitments and pressures of the area. But it is true that in France arts and culture are funded overwhelmingly by the state.
“the trio’s music attains a truly remarkable limpid beauty”
“Recorded in two sessions in 2008 and 2010, Spiral Inputs, published by Another Timbre, brings together three great explorers in four hallucinating improvisations. One disc, two sessions, three musicians, four improvisations, five instruments for only one result: a very singular dream voyage, neither anxious nor calm, navigating through strata that are autonomous and fluctuating, but according to a certain logic and never gratuitous.
The first thing that strikes you in these improvisations is the singularity of the timbre (probably largely due to the originality of the instrumentation), but also its expanse and its richness. The meeting of these three musicians is alchemical: while the musical personalities are clearly distinct, they couldn't be better coordinated or balanced. The delicacy and attention to detail of Sophie Agnel allows Bertrand Gauguet space to deploy his discrete gentleness, while the infinite creativity of Andrea Neumann enriches the wealth and depth of these four improvisations. At first sight each player seems to be exploring and employing only one single parameter and instrumental timbre, independently of the others, but they are listening and take account of each other in ways that bring together their experiments into a homogenous and coherent sonic landscape. The experimentation forms layers and strata which overlap, interlock and unfold in a simple but organic architecture.
If the ensemble sound is coherent and homogenous, the sonic landscapes are extremely diverse and heterogeneous. Spiral Inputs navigates between different biospheres governed by different laws (differentiation, opposition, symbiosis, etc..) and within multiple environments. These creation of these musical territories contain multiple energies composed of cold, abstract levels, obsessive repetitions, disturbing arpeggios and abyssal resonances. As many soft sounds as violent form this strange and unreal musical cosmos, ghostly, almost evanescent as each phase seems ephemeral and precarious. I say "almost" because this evanescence is rather dream-like: if each landscape seems volatile, it has nevertheless the consistency of a dream-scene, guided by the inaccessible logic of the sleeper.
Spiral Inputs unites three musicians who know how to explore the deep foundations of their collective unconscious, and that of their instruments, and who can thus lay bare the creative process. An introspective and poetic journey which leads the listener into the abysses of a creativity that is at once rich and minimalist, as reduced as it is profound. Four electroacoustic pieces, dreamy, captivating and bewitching.”
Julien Heraud, improv-sphere
‘”Spiral Inputs possesses all the qualities of a masterpiece”
“The different levels between performers working in comparable sectors of the musical area concerning with the atypical exploitation of the acoustic properties of instruments inside a room derive from the ability of repeatedly causing what in recent years has instead practically disappeared. The kind of emotional, visceral response to a sound – alone or in a combination – that brings the listener to mentally exclaim “a-ha” if he/she’s particularly cold-blooded, and to perceive veritable goosebumps, or get a glimpse of something within ourselves connected with a past experience, in relation to the manifestation of such a type of sonic circumstance.
Spiral Inputs possesses all the qualities of a masterpiece, becoming evident since the initial spin. The palette is shaped by two pianos (a “regular version” with preparations, a second deprived of the insides whose frame is used with electronics) and two saxophones. The sounds appear, first softly tapping our attention’s shoulder, then establishing a silent authority given by the peculiar mixture of incisiveness and delicacy that the musicians concoct. Occasionally one distinguishes “roles” – Agnel, for example, is the engenderer of occasional monochrome patterns or, if you will, the most noticeable rhythmic component in the general texture – but there’s no question about the fact that the tapestry weaved by the artists does not imply compartments. It’s a wonderful wholeness, made of natural-sounding diversity, a resonant heterogeneity whose constituents make a responsive audience richer, willing to abandon a customarily passive role of mere receivers. We feel like wanting to materially participate in the performance in a way or another. This is the sign of a capacity to involve that not many musicians own.
Should I be forced to pick a favourite amidst the four tracks the choice would fall on “Spiral #3”, gifted with an additional dose of mystery, a fragmented eeriness that, after a while, opens up to a repeated cluster by Agnel; its beauty is literally aching, bringing back memories of childhood in a flash. But the whole album deserves a plaque in the Hall Of Fame of the last decade’s best improvisation. A mature statement that leaves the doors open to throbbing hearts while still walking along the ear/brain gratification axis.”
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
““I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” the New Seekers sang in that old Coke commercial, giving voice to a toxic musical platonic ideal. How much music is rendered unlistenably bland by the search for perfection? Sophie Agnel, Bertrand Gauguet and Andrea Neumann not only embrace the impossibility of perfect harmony, they go out of their way to foster confusion.
Alongside these three (who play piano, saxophones, and piano frame, respectively), there is a fourth member — engineer Benjamin Maumus. His unique speaker setup during the recording ensured that the musicians rarely were certain of the origin of the sounds they heard. He scattered speakers throughout the recording and performance spaces, and routed sounds so that the speaker nearest a musician might exclusively play someone else’s sounds. Combine this with the presence of two pianos (albeit one that is unboxed) and you’ve got a fine mess that keeps the players off balance. Everyone in the group had to really listen to figure out whether the sounds they heard first were their own or someone else’s.
Ironically, this off-center strategizing has yielded some admirably balanced improvisation. All three players come from a generation that has embraced extended technique as an essential. Gauguet plays more rasps and moans than recognizable notes on his horns, but is more overtly expressive than, say, Bhob Rainey or Stephane Rives. Neumann matches his lower pitches with e-bow hums, and Agnel spends plenty of time rummaging inside her instrument’s innards. But even musicians devoted to the extraction of unfamiliar sounds can amass a familiar vocabulary. While Maumus’s spacialization doesn’t mess with the musicians’ sounds, it does oblige each one to work hard in order to be aware of the group context. They respond to the uncertainty with both attunement and quiet abandon, which yields music that is constantly changing yet well paced, at once detailed and immersive. Their playing eschews conventional harmony, but the of the action is so harmonious that they establish a Platonic ideal of their own.”
Bill Meyer, Dusted
Sophie Agnel, Bertrand Gauguet & Andrea Neumann - Spiral Inputs (Another Timbre, 2011)
“Overnight, 2011 became a great year in free improvisation for me. Outstanding combo records from Lucio Capece and Birgit Ulher, (late 2010 album) Flechettes (Lê Quan Ninh and Jean Derome), and Grape Skin (Doneda/Kocher/Schiller) all arrived and they’re all glorious. Of course there are many more than these, but music from such trusted names, all at once, is a welcome way to be overwhelmed. Add this to (my) recent discovery of Mirror (on the fantastic I Paint for Love of Color, which opened my mind to Slugabed completely), and the album in question has a lot to live up to.
Not only does this record keep pace, it might be my favorite of the group. I’m only somewhat familiar with Gauguet, but Agnel I’ve known for a while (first encountering her work on EMANEM while visiting Danny’s long dormant (sadly) BCUW), and Neumann is a staple of my record collection (LAlienation being of particular interest). The group might seem an odd combo to a certain extent. Agnel’s work, what I had heard of it prior at least, is somewhat standard extended techniques/prepared piano work. And while I’ve seen this done in a very free fashion (Sylvie Courvoisier comes immediately to mind), I don’t normally think of that sort of playing as entirely conducive to group improvisation (though it works well in duos with a horn).
Neumann’s own playing, outside of Pappelallee 5, has normally been in a group setting. I’ve always enjoyed her work, but at the same time, I have never focused on it when I’ve heard it; instead I was compelled by Sachiko M on In Case of Fire Take the Stairs, and Ercklentz on the aforementioned LAlienation. So while it wasn’t a huge leap to guess this would turn out well, I felt I was tackling a combo record featuring players I either assumed would work best solo, or players that were better in complementary roles. How wrong I was.
This record actually presented me with four perfectly developed, perfectly balanced improvisations. I assume many of the conventional piano sounds are provided by Agnel, and I felt that the repetition in these clear, somber voicings brought to life the electronics present. Indeed, the textures throughout the record come to life against the sounds of the piano.
Gauguet’s playing is a revelation for me. It is less microscopic than you might expect from a player working in extended techniques and microtonal sounds. It is placed out front. It moves faster than is typical for this type of playing. It sounds JUST enough like a horn to lend this group an organic feel that let’s me imagine I’m in their presence playing. Agnel accents his playing perfectly, too. Instead of frantically employing random sounds in a typical fast burst, slow scrape pattern that is quite common, she knocks the wood inside the piano only once during one portion, making that striking blow stand out in the memory. Likewise, what I hear as a pluck of the strings within the piano are some inverted comping move from Hell, but it works in a quite precise way, lending a layer of pattern atop Gauguet’s own evenly-timed sputters.
There is so much good music here, it is hard to really cover the moment-by-moment process of four long improvisations. I will say that if you want to hear some powerful freely improvised music in a less common combo (thanks to the prepared piano), you’ll fall in love with this album immediately. Oh, and check out everything I name check.”
“it seemed a good evening to write about an album of music I have been enjoying a great deal, another recent release on the tireless Another Timbre label, a CD named Spiral Inputs by Sophie Agnel, Bertrand Gauguet and Andrea Neumann. I’m a fan of all of these musicians, Agnel relatively recently, Gauguet for a few years and Neumann for quite a bit longer. This is one of those groups that makes sense even before you hear their combined music. The saxophonist Gauguet always seems to work well alongside a piano, and here he appears with one pianist playing a traditional instrument (Agnel) and a second playing the frame of a piano, removed from the instrument and attached to assorted electronic devices. (Neumann).
There are four tracks on Spiral Inputs, lasting a total of fifty-one minutes, all recorded in various live and studio situations in France across a two year period. So tracks one and four here were recorded in February 2010, and track three just a day later, but then track two was captured way back in June 2008. Despite the two year gap that separates the second track from the other three all of the music here feels like it fits together seamlessly. The second track (named Spiral #2) may be a little more boisterous and eventful than the others, but then maybe this might also just be my imagination. The music across all four tracks fits perfectly in that area of improvisation that has gradually become the dominant form in Europe of late, not quiet, not minimal, but also not fuelled by adrenalin and cluttered. Spiral Inputs is all about the interaction between sounds, tonal and percussive, electronic and acoustic, sharp and soft. It slips between loud and eventful sections to near silent restful periods. It can only really be described as improvised music. No sub genres easily apply.
Like so many fine improv albums the real listening pleasure here is an immersive, collaborative one. On my main, uninterrupted and focused listen to the album tonight I found myself thoughtlessly drawing shapes on a scrap of paper on my desk, a subconscious attempt to join in with the musical fray perhaps. The music finds a perfect balance between all of the inputs that make it up. The electronics here are understated rather than confrontational to the acoustic sounds, but they are still there and a vital part of the music. The sax rarely sounds much like a sax, but when we go listening for it, its presence is always there. Agnel’s piano playing flits between inside and outside, stroked and scraped strings one minute, softly played keys the next. There are long passages of calm and brooding expectancy, such as the last third of the opening piece, but these are often resolved in louder, more aggressive solutions, as that opening track illustrates; a period of muted electronics and murmuring piano bursts into sudden loud activity for a short while to end the track.
So I could end this review with a list of superlatives, and declare this the best album I’ve heard since whenever, or just state that listening to it, listening with it, letting it swarm and flow around me, has been a thoroughly joyful experience after a thoroughly tedious day. If improvised music is your thing, if, like me, you revel in the way musicians listen to each other int he moment and respond accordingly, if, like me you enjoy a blend of acoustic and electronic sounds of varying texture and dynamic, then you will enjoy this album a great deal. Fine stuff, and yet another winner from another solid batch of AT releases.”
Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
“When I was very young I would sometimes lie in the grass, one ear pressed to the soil, for a monoscopic view on life lived literally at grass roots, a telescoped perspective on a teeming world routinely hidden from view. The artists on the Another Timbre label, in the ways they make sound, bring a comparable perspective to the aural minutiae that brings music to life.
Another Timbre, as the label’s homepage succinctly puts it, provides an outlet “for improvised and cutting-edge contemporary music”. Common to all Another Timbre releases are quietness, gestural minimalism, and an emphasis – as might be expected – on the expressive potential of timbre (as distinct from pitch or volume, much less rhythm). The Another Timbre roster convenes at the Venn intersection where artists from multiple disciplines find common ground. Here, musicians with formidable ‘classical’ technique rub up against self-taught masters of new media, veteran improvisers from the electro acoustic, Onkyo or lower-case improvisation scenes, and specialists in aleatory music and cutting-edge composition. It’s a heady, rarefied zone where expression follows deep introspection, and the result is music for deep listeners. These aren’t recordings you can enjoy while vacuuming. John Cage appears to be one of the label’s touchstones, and many Another Timbre release can be heard as a responsive to Cage’s connection of spontaneity with pre-determination. The stunning “Lost Daylight” album, on which John Tilbury plays the piano music of Terry Jennings and, alongside Sebastian Lexer, John Cage’s “Electronic Music for Piano, 1964”, was a highlight of 2010, and made The Wire magazine’s top 10 recordings of that year. The four recordings considered by this article – all released in April 2011 – represent the more abstract side of the label’s output, all being more or less concerned with the refinement of the improviser’s art in the exploration of acoustic and electronic sound in all its fine-grained textural detail.
Sophie Agnel, Bertrand Gauguet, Andrea Neumann “Spiral Inputs”
One of my favourite recordings of 2009, Sophie Agnel’s “Capsizing Moments” (Emanem) was a turbulent solo tour de force on prepared piano. Her latest collaborative work, “Spiral Inputs” casts her in quite another light. Here she plays the piano ‘straight’, leaving partners Andrea Neumann to coax comparably sui generis sounds from a piano frame and electronics, and Bertrand Gauguet to coax sympathetically resonating timbres from alto and soprano saxophones.
In common with many Another Timbre releases, the album brings together pieces recorded at different times and places, in this case two live and two studio recordings. The two studio pieces that bookend the album, “Spiral #1” and “Spiral #4” differ markedly. “#1” is so carefully rendered that, across its 18 minute duration, no matter how absorbing the deft sensitivity of the performers, it becomes quite soporific. “Spiral #4” is contrastingly brief, eventful, and light-hearted.
The live performances were manipulated by diffusion “almost randomly” across fifteen loudspeakers by engineer Banjamin Maumus, an effect sadly not transmittable via a recording. The first, “Spiral #2” pre-dates the other recordings by some 20 months. In this earlier meeting the musicians, no doubt less settled in each other’s company, play more directly, and with greater emphasis on their individual lines and the qualities specific to their individual instruments. The result is an openness that grants the listener easy access. But the best balance in their work is achieved in “Spiral #3”, a live recording no less carefully rendered than the two contemporaneous studio takes, but allowed to develop a little more freely in the apparently (surprisingly) less rarefied atmosphere of the Bibliothèque Centrale, Mulhouse. The most sublime moment of this richly rewarding album comes at the conclusion of this track, where the trio’s music attains a truly remarkable limpid beauty.”
Tim Owen, The Jazz Man
“Quatre Spiral le dans lesquelles se sont engouffrées Sophie Agnel (piano), Andrea Neumann (cadre de piano et électronique) et Bertrand Gauguet (saxophones alto et soprano). Dans un espace sonore préparé par Benjamin Maumus, le trio fait preuve de patience dans son projet musical : avant l’élévation, et donc l’allumage précipité à force d’allers et venues sur cadre et sous écho, il y a des graves et des crépitements. En vol, les expressions doivent encore faire avec autant ou presque de discrétions, sur le qui-vive pour éviter les fautes intentionnelles ou ne pas révéler de vérités trop évidentes.
Ensuite alors, les insistances : une note à la gauche du clavier qu’Agnel se prend à harceler, des souffles en saxophones qui suivent des trajectoires brèves ou qui vocifèrent pour être sectionnés menus, une rumeur-acouphène qui, malgré sa discrétion, tient bon devant les pratiques tumultueuses ou les insinuations perçantes. A la fin, la tension dramatique retrouve même le chemin du rythme.”
Guillaume Belhomme, Le Son du Grisli
“La Filature, Bibliothèque Grand'Rue, La Maison de la Musique, eine Spinnerei, eine Bibliothek und ein Haus der Musik selbst boten ein Dach, ein Obdach für Spiral Inputs (at39). Spinnen und weben SOPHIE AGNEL als Außen&Innenpianistin, BERTRAND GAUGUET mit Alto- & Sopranosaxophon und ANDREA NEUMANN mit Piano Frame & Electronic Devices, teils Percussion, teils Zither, teils bloßes Geräusch, eine Klangwelt, bei der man Bücher lesen kann? Auf gewisse Weise schon. Die Klanggespinste sprechen nämlich selber Bände, sind Poesie und Mystery, Sonic Fiction ohne Worte. Sie locken die Phantasie in unheimliche Zonen, dahin, wo man lieber eine Sonde, eine Kamera, vorschicken möchte, bevor man einen Fuß dorthin setzt. Gauguet suggeriert atmende, keuchende, schnaubende, schrill trillernde und pfeifende Phantome. Neumann und Agnel poltergeistern, sie schleifen und kratzen, sie federn und harfen drahtig. Das ist 'Kammermusik', wie sie entstehen kann, wenn man Edgar Allan Poe liest. Lady Madeline am Piano, M. Valdemar am Saxophon und Kater Pluto an der Zither. Ihr Röcheln, Klopfen, Kratzen und Ächzen schraubt sich Windung für Windung ins Hirn. Was als leiser Schauder einer spiritistischen Sitzung beginnt, mit verrauschten Schritten, dünnem Geisterfingerpiano, paranormalem Luftzug und Glissandos, die die Grenze zwischen 'Hüben' und 'Drüben' verwischen, wird gegen Ende von 'Spiral #1' zum Ambiente von 360°. 'Spiral # 2' klopft diesen Eindruck noch fester, 'Spiral # 3' dämpft ihn mit einem weißen Tuch, 'Spiral # 4' zieht die Schraube knirschend wieder an. Andere mögen statt der Poe'schen Farben blassere sehen und statt einer Spirale des Schrecken etwas Namenloseres. Es ist alles eine Frage der Lektüre. Mutige schließen die Augen und lesen, was dort steht.”
Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy
“Sophie Agnel är alldeles för litet känd! Denna franska pianist med en gungande rytmisk känsla, som ständigt gifter sig med ett suveränt anslag och skimrande klanger. För dem som inte hört henne förut rekommenderar jag trioskivan tillsammans med Lionel Marchetti och Jérôme Noetinger från 2001, Rouge gris bruit (Potlatch). Och den tre år gamla soloplattan Capsizing Moments (Emanem). Den senare är delvis jämngammal med den nya skivan, som spelats in 2008 och 2010. De två albumen ligger alltså bra invid varandra.
Och en jämförelse med den helfranska utgåvan är också intressant. För där hör vi en flygel som umgås med två elektronikaspelare, innan de hade drabbats av den reduktionism, som i dag är så vanlig. De rör sig i en europeisk/fransk tradition av bandmusik och avantgarde, där ljudvågorna och klangblocken mer spänner mot Agnels pianospel än blandar sig. De tre turas om att lägga upp ljudvägar, som de andra rör sig kors och tvärs över. Det är ett utomordentligt spirituellt och öppet album, där inte minst Agnel briljerar med efterklanger och suveränt pedalspel som varvas med fingrarna ömsom inuti flygeln och ömsom kastande sig över tangenterna. Hennes attack är avsevärd.
Solo är Agnel fenomenal, en av Europas angelägnaste improvisatörer. Det är bara förvånande, att hon hörts så litet på våra breddgrader. Vad beror det på? Inte kvalitet i alla fall.
Som sagt, jämförelserna infinner sig inför Spiral Inputs.
Styckena präglas i högsta grad av Neumanns närvaro. Och av saxofonisten Bertrand Gauguet, som så tydligt formats under de senaste tio årens musik. Hans sopran- och altsaxspel är utvidgat som det heter, då diverse olika ljudströmmar utvinns ur instrumentet. Hade han varit ensam med Neumann hade musiken smält samman till en varm ström av små ljudkast. Men Agnel träder in med sina efterklanger, och hennes eftertänksamma, ibland ettriga preparerade spel ger redan från början musiken en ambivalens mellan intensitet och eftertanke.
Musiken rör sig i ljudspår som vi numera är vana vid. Men dess vidd skapas av motsatsparet Agnel – Neumann. Däremellan rör sig Gauguet, men han håller sig oftast nära vår vän från Berlin.
Jämförelsen med den utlevande, ganska fräsiga – i ordets egentliga mening – musiken från 2001 ger vid handen, hur snabbt den akustiska och elektroniska musiken förändrats. Men Agnel har behållit en hel del av de tidigare erövringarnas närhet till konstmusiken. Där finns tron på rena klanger i avbrutna tidslinjer.
Neumann är mer inne på att skapa rörelse i rummet. Och det kan hon som få. Inklusive att sätta sprätt på Gauguets saxspel med en medveten interaktion. Om någon glömt det, är ju Neumann en lysande gruppmusiker inom vilka ramar som helst.
Det gör ju att detta trioalbum blivit så lyckat. Varje stycke masar sig långsamt framåt i kringgående rörelser mot ganska överraskande klangbilder, som får bli kulminerande upplösningar.
Sedan kan jag ju inte låta bli att göra följande reflexion efter att åter ha lyssnat på tidigare album av Agnel. Tillsammans med Neumann och Gauguet är det som om de hade en gemensam låda av ljud att kombinera. Allting utanför stannar just utanför. Vad jag menar är att i denna klanginriktade musik härskar ett slags demokrati, ett slags samtycke, där inte någon drar i väg, skenar loss, går in och stör i onödan. Kort och gott inte riktigt utmanar de andra. Och vid det här laget är denna musik så välkänd, att det bitvis i alla fall blivit en allmänning.
Jag tänkte på samma sak då jag i förra Soundofmusic recenserade Spunk. Var och en har enorma kapaciteter, men tillsammans blir de en del av Spunk – och kanske tappar gruppen en del energi genom detta. Att lära sig strunta i att sticka upp.
När jag låter Agnel-Gauguet-Neumann omsvärma mig är det inte obekvämt, tvärtom, ett klarare betraktande av klanger och småljud i ett friskt flöde har jag sällan hört.
Funderingarna stegras emellertid inför de plötsliga anslagen från flygeln, som påminner mig om den dynamik Agnel är förmögen att skapa solo. I slutet på ett par av styckena med trion växlar hon obönhörligt upp och rycker med sig kamraterna. Och jag funderar, hur det skulle ha låtit om de börjat där i stället?
En fråga hänger alltså i luften. Har den reducerade impron gått in i en klassisk fas och väntar på nästa omslag? Eller tillägg? Hur det nu blir.
Medan jag knackar på barometern, lyssnar jag med stor behållning på Agnel tillsammans med Gauguet och Neumann. Det är inte så mycket mer jag kan önska mig – utom möjligen då svar på min egen nyfikenhet. Och varför skulle de här musikerna ha det? Kanske skulle de svara, att jag fick lyssna en gång till.
Här finns många gyllene ögonblick, där framförallt Agnel och Neumann servar varandra med hårdskruvad musik som tecknar långa parabler genom rymden.
Få gör om det.
Så vad sitter jag och gnäller för?!”
Thomas Millroth, Sound of Music
“Letošní dubnová kolekce britského labelu Another Timbre nemá žádné spoleèné téma, ale spojuje ji duch panevropeismu, což je ovšem pro tuto firmu celkem typické.
Na CD Spiral Inputs se sešli francouzští hudebníci – pianistka Sophie Agnel a saxofonista Bertrand Gauguet – a nìmecké elektronièka a tentokrát i hráèka na kostru piana Andrea Neumann. Jejich ètyødílný opus se skuteènì vyvíjí v nejrùznìjších vzájemnì propletených a rùznì se øetìzících makro i mikro spirálách a vytváøí až pøekvapivì harmonické struktury. Gauguetovy dechové poryvy tu pøedstavují vzdušný dech, Agnel støídá temné údery do kláves s hojným využitím strun a Neumann jakoby obaluje celý nervový systém tohoto díla, kde se volnì prolínají pøedem promyšlené pasáže s èirou improvizací. První dvì cca osmnáctiminutové èásti mají mnohem vìtší dynamiku a barevnost než filigránské minimalistické „dovìtky“. Na zcela precizní „ultrasonické“ stránce nahrávky se výraznì podepsal i zvukový inženýr Benjamin Maumus, který ve vyvážených pomìrech podtrhl vzájemné souznìní všech zúèastnìných.” Petr Slaby
Photo: Gregory Henrion