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Baghdassarians / Baltschun / Bosetti / Doneda - Strom

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Artist: Baghdassarians / Baltschun / Bosetti / Doneda

Album: Strom

Label: Potlatch

Review date: Jan. 17, 2005

Boris Baltschun and Serge Baghdassarians join soprano saxophonists Alessandro Bosetti and Michel Doneda here for some very freaky textural improvisation. Baltschun and Baghdassarians play sampler and mixing desk, respectively (Baghdassarians is also credited with guitar, but only a few sounds are recognizable as a guitar), which might lead you to believe that the electronics and saxophones are pitted against one another somehow. But the saxophones can only be distinguished from the electronics with very close listening, and all the instruments sound like muffled screams, busted vacuum cleaners and tests of the emergency broadcast system.

Baltschun and Baghdassarians, who also often record and perform together as a duo, both have a knack for improvising electronic sounds that change frequently without losing attention to detail. (Baltschun also demonstrated these abilities on 2004’s excellent No Furniture with Axel Dörner and Kai Fagaschinski.) The electronics on Strom also manage to sound less than pristine, in the sense that they sometimes sound as if they might be created by breath through a tube. Baltschun and Baghdassarians therefore match up nicely with Bosetti and Doneda.

These players’ attempts to obscure the ‘natural’ sounds of their instruments, along with the way the structures of these pieces are marked by changes in the group’s overlapping textures, place these players in the same ballpark as Bhob Rainey, Urs Leimgruber, Axel Dörner and Keith Rowe. Within that context, the most important characteristics of Strom are its production and intensity.

Bosetti and Doneda recently recorded together on another Potlatch release, 2003’s Placés dans l'Air with fellow saxophonist Rainey, and like that album, Strom manages to capture the sounds of the room in which it was recorded while still sounding like the microphones were positioned very close to the players. Bosetti and Doneda aren’t playing somewhere across the distance of a concert hall, they’re buzzing right in your ear while you’re all sitting in a cave, which makes their saxophones sound larger than life and often downright scary.

Strom also sounds restless – the four musicians here create textures that change more quickly than they typically do in this sort of music. The album is full of tension that never really resolves: even with all the movement from texture to texture, the players establish a consistent mood. Even though this music could never be described as aggressive (although it’s not ‘minimal’ or ‘lowercase,’ either), the musicians sound so sensitive to one another that they almost seem impatient. Strom is a very anxious-sounding and often frightening record, especially when it's loud. It also stands out even among these fine players’ catalogs, which is to say that it’s very, very good.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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