Review: NEF – Intervalles (INSUB, Apr 23)

The credits for Intervalles read like an all-star list of masters of the minimal and miniscule: Pascal Battus and Bertrand Gauguet, who have previously collaborated for the Chantier series with Éric La Casa, contribute “rotating surfaces” and alto saxophone, respectively; the mastering was handled by prolific sound artist engineer Giuseppe Ielasi; and the mixing and design for the ekopack CD was done by reductionist improviser and classical performer d’incise. The only name I don’t recognize is that of snare drum player Rodolphe Loubatière, who joins Battus and Gauguet to comprise NEF, but that is sure to change after hearing his brilliant work on this album. INSUB’s short description for Intervalles captures its essence well when it states that the trio’s performance is an “-almost- pure” abstraction of their chosen instruments. While all are vastly different devices, they converge in a unified harmony of spectral whir and hum extracted with masterful use of extended techniques, yet there are many times when it is clear which element is which—the metallic silhouettes of even Gauguet’s most elusive exhalations are often apparent, and Loubatière’s snare drum will sound familiar to anyone who’s ever messed around with a snare strainer (or listened to a Seijiro Murayama album)—but there are also many times where the music is a gloriously lush and ambiguous mess of indefinable sonorities. Like so many other examples of my most treasured documents of electroacoustic improvisation (Aut Disce Aut DiscedeCardtape DraftsIs Music Invisible?Intervalles is both micro- and macroscopic, completely immersing one in a detailed sound-world that is somehow at once tactile and dimensionless.

This album is also great because I swear my shitty coffee maker makes an appearance in “Acte VII.”

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