Kristoff K Roll & Xavier Charles

La Pièce
Potlatch: P199

Kristoff K. Roll:
Jean-Christophe Camps and Carole Rieussec: electroacoustic devices
Xavier Charles: clarinet

Recorded by Francois Dietz at CCAM, Vandœuvre in February and October 1999.

Kristoff K Roll are electroacoustic duo Camps and Rieussec. They make sparse, rather self-effacing music which nevertheless manages to be more than a passive backdrop for guest clarinettist Charles. Much of the music here is very quiet — headphone music, indeed, as Chris Atton rightly characterises it — but that’s not to say it’s just ambient wallpaper.

On the contrary, this trio play very dynamically, if with threads of continuity. On “Grange Nocturne”, for instance, a see-sawing violin sample guides the listener gently through a quiet storm of bowed cymbals, tiny skittering sounds and, of course, Charles’s clarinet. This approach is continued through most of the tracks, giving each one an identity and making the album as a whole very listenable.

The material Charles plays is, as one might expect, pretty gestural stuff, generally offering up interesting timbres rather than melodic lines. Charles does, however, have a good sense of space, and his relationship with the electronics is sure enough to create rather sparky interplay from such a quiet, apparently unassuming bunch.

Disks like this can initially be off-putting, but there’s much to enjoy here. It does require an odd kind of listening, both concentrated (because it’s so quiet) and at the same time slightly vague. KKR have a lot in common with soudscape artists, often using identifiable sound-sources to create imaginary auditory landscapes through which Charles roams, sometimes creeping warily, sometimes darting about like a bird. This can be very evocative for the headphonaut, to whome this disc has a lot to offer. Richard Cochrane