Review: Jean-Luc Guionnet & Seijiro Murayama – Idiophonic (Ftarri, May 27)

Jean-Luc Guionnet and Seijiro Murayama’s third studio record as a duo is a pretty drastic departure from their previous work. The most obvious change is that Guionnet plays a pipe organ instead of his usual alto saxophone, giving Idiophonic a much darker feel. I get the distinct impression that the two musicians were very far apart from each other while recording; the album’s three improvisations feel oddly split, even disconnected, but not in a way that hinders their impact. Guionnet’s organ playing is unlike anything else I’ve heard produced by the instrument. Instead of embracing and utilizing its natural droning, cavernous sonority, he attacks the keys in an almost percussive manner, forcing notes out of it rather than letting them escape. Murayama’s approach is similarly aggressive, his snare snarling and gnashing with disarming hostility; there’s even a point in “Idiophonic 2” where his furious rolls almost reach blast beat territory. There’s an interesting contrast present here between the artists’ vigorous improvising and the sense of separation between them; and I’d expect nothing less from these notoriously cryptic and creative musicians.