Misere et Cordes

Au Ni Kita
Potlatch: P101

Pascal Battus: surrounded guitar
Emmanuel Petit: acoustic guitar
Dominique Répécaud: electric guitar
Camel Zekri: classical guitar & electronics

Recorded by François Dietz at CCAM, Vandœuvre on September 29th & 30th 1999.

If among the instruments of free improvisation the saxophone is still the king, the guitar is surely its impatient prince. It’s an instrument which lends itself to preparation, modification, manipulation and other sorts of abuse; it attracts disaffected rockers, folk musicians and punks like the sax draws jazzers. As a result, guitar-driven projects like those represented on these three disks are often quite different in flavour from reed-based ones.

Misere et Cordes (not the best band name of all time, but no matter) are a quartet which aims to encompass the whole range of the instrument: classical, acoustic, electric and “surrounded”. One assumes (and this is only an assumption) that the latter is either heavily modified or played flat on a tabletop with a variety of instruments; either way, the sounds this conjures up are the sounds of the album as a whole.

These are guitars as sound-sources and, although there is (as there always is) some conventional technique lurking under the surface, there are few notes or chords and certainly none which function as such. Zekri adds some rudimentary electronics into the mix, but otherwise the sound is dominated by the now-familiar clicks, bangs, clanks, scrapes, squeaks and rattles of this vocabulary.

The pieces, as you might expect, are pretty formless. There are good bits — the second half of “Argyl”, for example, pits the guitarists very sparsely against either Zekri’s electronics or Repecaud’s electric guitar — but there are also those inevitable bits which have you wondering where they’re going. Fans of this percussive, tactile style of guitar-playing will find things to enjoy here, although it probably won’t win any converts. This writer would have preferred a more textured approach, with more disciplined deployments of light and shade. Lovers of the noisier, less organised end of improv will like it better, and there are undoubted high points. Richard Cochrane