Xavier Charles . clarinet (acoustic & amplified)
Bertrand Gauguet . alto saxophone (acoustic & amplified)
- Phonomnèse 1 . (07:59)
- Étendue 1 . (03:27)
- Le point fantôme . (05:15)
- Phonomnèse 2 . (07:25)
- Étendue 2 . (12:26)
- Phonomnèse 3 . (03:33)
Total time : 40:05
Tracks 1,3,4 & 6: recorded by Alexis Derouet at Césaré, Reims (FR) 2017 December 7 to 8
Tracks 2 & 5: recorded by Emmanuel Lalande at PiedNu, Le Havre (FR) 2015 March 6 to 8
Edited by Bertrand Gauguet – 2019, August
Mixed by Bertrand Gauguet and Xavier Charles – 2019, September
Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi – 2019, October
Original Drawing for the cover by Guillaume Dégé
Graphic Design by Atelier ter Bekke & Behage
Akousis records AK001 – 2020
Changing designated locations in this six episode adventure in acoustic cosmos exploration, Xavier Charles and Bertrand Gauguet have neither the space hardware nor the futuristic craft of equivalent protagonists Kirk’s and Spock’s interstellar journeys. Instead Charles has only his clarinet and Gauguet his alto saxophone, both of which are played acoustically or amplified in their sonic travels.
Recorded in Reims and Le Havre, Spectre is the culmination of duet improvising which has been part of Charles’ and Gauguet’s oeuvre since 2013. Experiments here touch on breath, multiphonic and spatial concerns. By extension though, the duo’s creativity in informed by their other work. The clarinettist is involved in multiple collaborations with musicians ranging from John Butcher to Ingar Zach. Also a composer of electronic music and soundtracks, Gauguet also works with improvisers like Andrea Neumann and Eddie Prévost.
Burbling reeds are blended so that split tones are extended with additional multiphonics. These encompass airs ranging from chunky to wispy and from dark to light during three variants of Phonomnèse”. Picking up additional timbres as they connect during the more extended “Phonomnèse 1” and “Phonomnèse 2”, forward motion is defined, as “Phonomnèse 3” as only a brief coda. From the start, laconic reed narratives are layered to approximate a solid mass. Yet the concentrated result is still permeable enough so that individual instrument timbres are present like raised skin tags on the epidermis. Demarcation is clear however since “Phonomnèse 2” includes reed warbles and ring-modulator-like gonging, with more timbres exposed before fading. Expelled spits and echoes illuminates “Point Fantôme”, as penetrating tones turn from watery to ferocious until detaching wafts lead to stasis before a final upsurge. The harshest intersection though is on the extended “Étendue 2”, where woodwind amplification produces thicker and louder sonic slabs that build up to thunderstorm proportions. Rattling drones, magnified to near ear-splitting metal wrenching textures mark the climax.
Anything but diaphanous, this Spectre is for those who can accept vigorous and unvarnished timbres.
Ken Waxman, jazzword.com
Spectre documents six sonic explorations by Xavier Charles on acoustic and amplified clarinet and Bertrand Gauguet on acoustic and amplified alto saxophone. It would be misleading to call these reed duos though. While the elemental qualities of their respective instruments are certainly notable, breath and amplification and the way the resultant sound activated the spaces where the recordings took place are paramount. The pieces were recorded at Césaré (Centre national de création musicale), Reim and Pied Nu, Le Havre, two experimental electroacoustic sound centers in France. In both sessions, Charles’ and Gauguet’s collaboration with recording engineers result in recordings that admirably capture the painstaking placement of the sound of the instruments in the respective spaces in which they were performed.
The two had been working actively as a duo at the time of the recordings and that synergy is evident. The release is comprised of three sets of pieces. There are three versions of “Phonomnèse” (phonomnesis – a mental activity that involves internal listening and imagining a sound that is not actually heard) which focus on multiphonics captured as the musicians moved around the studio. Two versions of “Étendue” (expanse) utilize signal amplification and distortion to expand the sonic palette. And “Point fantôme” (phantom point) zeros in on the close-amplification of breath through the two reed instruments.
The recording segues from one piece to another, creating a unified flow. “Phonomnèse 1” draws on quavering long tones that slowly move in and out of phase with each other, maximizing the resultant difference in tones and oscillating harmonics. The three-minute “Étendue 1” adds burred distortion into the mix, serving to scuff the resultant interactions of the natural reed harmonics, particularly accentuating the low frequencies. “Point fantôme” drops the use of tone altogether, instead building an improvisation out of attack and velocity of breath, from hushed whispers to plosive percussive spatters. On “Phonomnèse 2” sinetone-like frequencies are introduced and there is a greater use of gradual tone shifts, effectively building on the strategies of the first piece. “Étendue 2” gets stretched out to twelve and a half minutes and benefits from being able to develop over a longer duration. Here the amplification accrues into dark waves of feedback and low-end rumble which gets layered into rasping turbulence, ebbing and flowing with rigorous control. The recording closes out with “Phonomnèse 3,” a return to clean tones and harmonics which circles back to the slowly unfolding tactics of the opening piece, providing an effective structural conclusion to the recording. Both Charles and Gauguet have extensive discographies, but this looks to be the first time they recorded together and their tactical rigor and resourceful approach delivers impressive results.
Michael Rosenstein, pointofdeparture.org
Experimental French improvisers Xavier Charles and Bertrand Gauguet have been playing as a duo since 2013, focusing on sound as a medium of meditation. Charles is known for his collaborations with Norwegian musicians in Dans les Arbes and Palteform bands, as well his long-term collaboration with the Dutch The Ex band, and he often explores the sonic qualities of vibrating surfaces. Gauguet’s work encompasses improvisation, new music and he composes electronic music and he produced plays and soundtracks for dance, cinema, and radio, and he has collaborated with innovative improvisers as British pianist John Tilbury and Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger. «Spectre» is their first recorded work as a duo, captured in March 2015 and in December 2017, featuring Charles playing on acoustic and amplified clarinet and Gauguet on acoustic and amplified alto sax, and released as the debut album of newly founded Akousis Records.
The recording of the six pieces was done with careful emphasis on signal amplification and distortion and with few microphones positioned differently in the studio. Charles and Gauguet explore minimalist and transparent multiphonic spaces on «Phonomnèse 1», «Phonomnèse 2» and «Phonomnèse 3» with impressive control and focus as if they were playing only the contours of these delicate and static drones on the acoustic clarinet and the acoustic alto sax. These subtle pieces sound at times as electronic, ambient sine waves.
Both Charles and Gauguet are using amplifications on «Étendue 1» and «Étendue 2» in order to create alien and cinematic, highly resonant sonic landscapes that involve minimalist distortions and noises. «Point fantôme» focuses on extended breathing techniques and Charles and Gauguet explore here an almost silent, fragile but surprisingly an industrial-percussive soundscape.
«Spectre» mirrors the delicate and contemplative «Phonomnèse» drones with the disturbing and vibrating «Étendue» and «Point fantôme» soundscapes. This tension invites the attentive listener to reflect on the suggestive power of quiet music and of deep listening.
Eyal Hareuveni, Salt Peanuts
Xavier Charles on clarinet and Bertrand Gauguet on alto saxophone are a consolidated duo, who began to work together in 2013. SPECTRE, a CD released at the beginning of May 2020 by the Akousis Records, includes 6 tracks. These tracks are carefully organized and dilated and lead to a sort of time suspension, which encourages a contemplative listening, made by empty spaces, incomplete passages and concentrations of energy, in a refined and highly cerebral crossover. Three productions, “Phonomnèse 1”, “Phonomnèse 2” and “Phonomnèse 3″, are specifically focused on the exploration of multiphonic spaces on the edge of the possibilities of the two instruments. “Point fantôme” is focused on the subject of the breath, ideally conceived as a vanishing point between two sound spaces. “Étendue 1” and “Étendue 2” are two musical weavings, based on a developed amplification of very faint sounds. The improvisations are stark. The French alto saxophonist employs some acoustic techniques and microtonal approaches typical of his background. Xavier Charles, despite a more direct approach, works perfectly with his colleague. In his latest projects he has experimented with installations of vibrating speakers that push the limits of genres. The tenacity and the mutual influence of the two musicians make for vivid improvisation. These unconventional techniques are so internalized as to seem entirely natural to the listener. If in some passages time seems to slow down until almost stopping, the whole process produces an effect similar to a snap-shot, which shortly crystallizes the controlled flux of the passages, which are otherwise very detailed and changeable in the intersection of the parts.
Το Γαλλικό ντουέτο των Xavier Charles (κλαρινέτο) και Bertrand Gauguet (άλτο σαξόφωνο), παίζουν μαζί εδώ και αρκετά χρόνια και το “Spectre” αποτελεί απόσταγμα της πειραματικής δουλειάς τους. Περιέχει έξι αυτοσχεδιαστικά κομμάτια ηχογραφημένα με ειδικές τεχνικές όπου είτε χρησιμοποιούν ένα και μόνο μικρόφωνο είτε πολλά τοποθετημένα σε διαφορετικές αποστάσεις μέσα στο στούντιο. Οι παίκτες άλλοτε μένουν σταθεροί και άλλοτε κινούνται μέσα στον χώρο ενώ πολλά μουσικά διαστήματα συνδέονται μόνο με την αναπνοή. Συνήθως τα ηχοτοπία μεταβάλλονται αργά και ατονικά για να εισάγουν το κοινό σε στοχαστικά ακούσματα.
Der französische Klarinettist Xavier Charles hat zusammen mit dem ebenfalls aus Frankreich stammenden Saxophonisten und elektronischen Musiker Bertrand Gauguet das Album Spectre aufgenommen. Bei den während den Aufnahmen entstandenen Stücken handelt es sich dabei weniger um komponierte Musik als viel mehr um Sound, Drone und atmosphärische Musik. Die Instrumente werden sehr sonor und extrem langsam gespielt. Man hört die Luft durch die Instrumente rauschen und manchmal hat man das Gefühl das die Musiker, die noch am spielen sind, von Ihren eigenen Klängen überholt werden. Es entstehen Drone-Landschaften einer sehr ruhigen Art. Auch lassen die Musiker den Klängen immer wieder viel Raum und Stille, um in Ruhe verhallen zu können.Neben diesen überwiegend dunkel vor sich hin mäandernden Klängen gibt es auch Contempoarary-Sounds, wie auf dem dritten Stück “Point Fantôme“. Hier wird mit eher abgehackten, zerfaserten Klängen gearbeitet, aber auch im eher zurückhaltenden Stil um kakophonische Landschaften zu vermeiden.Ein überwiegend dunkles, mäanderndes Werk das den Klang zum Mittelpunkt wählt und auf seltsam reduzierte Weise doch auch überbordende Klänge erzeugt.
Wolfgang Kabsch, Musikansich
Put out onthe circuit as the very first release of the fresh Akousis Records-imprint on May 8th, 2k20 is “Spectre”, the new collaborative album effort created by Xavier Charles and Bertrand Gauguet who’ve been on stage together for the better part of the last decade now. Working both on acoustic and amplified clarinet and alto saxophone as their respective instruments of choice whilst exploring the possibilities of multi-phonic spaces and recording as part of their artistic approach the duo creates a calm, quite minimalist and stripped down realm of mostly droning, solemn and slow moving quality, bordering on somewhat time dissolving Dark / Isolationist Ambient infused with remnants of what used to be called DarkJazz at times whilst catering a crackling soundtrack for ones inner void with the crackles and Field Recordings of “Point Fantome” whereas tunes like our favorite “Phonomnese 2″evokes more of a cold and desolate, space / sci-fi oriented feel in tense minimalist midrange frequency droning and makes us think of HAL9000 for some strange and hard to explain reason. Furthermore “Etendue 2” employs more of a swell of klaxon’esque soundwaves being blown over from afar before drifting off into Noize-driven territories and the final cut “Phonomnese 3” harks back to the solemn, moody opening tunes of this album. Quite a good one, this.
EPSILONIA, radio libertaire, July 02 2020
We also received some smaller label entries, including an excellent duo album from Charles, Xavier & Bertrand Gauguet on the new Akousis Records label (…).
This may explain my enthusiasm with the new album from the long-running collaboration of two reedists: Xavier Charles and Bertrand Gauguet, who create multi-phonic spaces on the clarinet and alto saxophone, which they refer to as frequency landscapes. Spectre, on the new Akousis label, demonstrates their work through a series of recordings using a variety of techniques and approaches to acoustic phenomenon. Their work has a scientific aspect, recording in stages on a variety of microphones, performing on both acoustic and amplified instruments. Through positioning in static and mobile positions over multiple stages they can slowly modify their soundspace, developing interference patterns of varying timbre and force. They also deploy multiphonics — two voices simultaneously on a single wind instrument — to further modify their interaction. Both improvisers, the discipline of technique also yields to intuition and their evident love of sound, making their dialog uniquely their own.
Six pieces are presented — 3 works of “Phonomnese” (a mental activity that involves internal listening); 2 works of “Etendue” (a property of light in an optical system, which characterizes how “spread out” the light is in area and angle); and one “Point Fantome” (phantom point) — most of which are highly contemplative or meditative. There is a seductive quality to their playing, and also a sense of metaphysical wonder, reminding of a Tibetan prayer bowl in its serenity and solitary peace. That tranquility is dissipated in the final two works, as they use amplification to create subtle distortion, lifting the revery for a moment to reveal the potential irascibility in such closely formed tones. But in the end Charles and Gauguet revert to their tranquil interference, reverberating into the infinite. Beautiful!
Using the interference points of closely pitched sound, long-time collaborators Xavier Charles and Bertrand Gauguet use acoustic and amplified clarinets and saxophones to create frequency landscapes that change slowly, ringing with harmonics while finding unison and conflict in their tones, creating meditative aural environments of great beauty and reflection.
Squidco, July 10 2020
Radio Panik, Bruxelles, Indiedrome, 2020 June 9
Revue & corrigée #124, Ring-modulation : Observatoire de la ligne droite, ou les non-musiques par Kasper T. Toeplitz, p 63. Juin 2020.
L’expérimentale de François Bonnet, France Musique, 2020/06/07
Nelle Due ultime decadi gli studenti a fiato sono divenuti mezzo privilegiato per tracciare une sorta d’ideale transustanziazione del suono acustico in elettronico / digitale o viceversa, attraverso une tecnica che mediante l’estrema dilatazione della note e del respiro produce un’affascinante mimesi. Il duo formato da Xavier Charles (clarinetto) e Bertrand Gauguet (sassofono) opera esattamente nel cuore di questa rinnovata estetica, alternando passati stilizzati in cui le ance vibrano con minima intensità e il suo viene trattenuto con estremo rigore (Phonomnèse 1, 2 e 3), momenti in cui lo strumento diviene semplice filtro del respiro e nulla più (Point Fantôme) ed episodi ove la fisicità riemerge soprattutto grazie all’apporto dell’amplificazione che distorce le forme dando vita a inquietanti risonanze (Étendue 1 e 2). Attivi da anni nel circuito dell’improvvisazione, Charles e Gauguet esplorano le più remote potenzialità dei propri strumenti riuscendo a estrarre la materia di « Spectre » dalle zone più oscure della mente, là dove solo di rado si riesce ad accedere (7/8).
Massimiliano Busti, Blow up, Italie, Mai 2020
(…) this is some very radical music. It is mostly about playing lengthy sustaining passages in which the amplification can seem to take over from the actual playing. However, that said, this is not about total feedback, noise or distortion. Charles and Gauguet maintain a strong level of control over their work, in which they can easily play for a few minutes very quietly and yet one feels a lot of tension between the players. Everything seems to be about this level of control. Each of the six pieces is carefully played out and most of the times it didn’t seem like two amplified wind instruments; it could have been some amplified string objects, but not with a lot of reverb. It doesn’t sound like a long string instrument. When you play this loud, the sound will be overwhelming and an attack on the ears, but at a moderate level seems to bring out some equally great beauty, without being such a burden upon the listener.
FdW, Vital Weekly 1234
On dirait le même exercice de maintien : un jeu de duettistes – ici Xavier Charles à la clarinette et Bertrand Gauguet au saxophone alto – qui feint la fusion sur une note en partage avant de donner à chacun la parole au gré de nuances qui, par quel mystère renouvelé, nourrissent l’enjeu commun.
C’est ici la première référence du label Akousis : un Spectre à six faces (trois Phonomnèse et un Point fantôme « naturels » enregistrés à Reims en 2017 et deux Etendue amplifiées au Havre en 2015) qui d’abord progresse sur un fil sur lequel, pourtant, les deux instruments ne cessent de se croiser, se cherchent voire.
Rien qui n’empêche la clarinette de se mettre à chanter sur deux notes qu’entame aussi bientôt l’alto. Ce seront ensuite des souffles égarés en instruments qui n’en seront pas moins capables d’exprimer deux intérêts – celui de Gauguet (le terme « expérimental » (…) balaie un éventail de pratiques et d’esthétiques qui parfois se côtoient, parfois se croisent), celui de Charles (… le plaisir de la matière sonore, mais aussi l’écoute faite de centaines de façons d’écouter… Inventer de nouvelles façons d’écouter) – servant une même envie.
Subtilement mélangées, les épreuves de Reims (délicates, voire prudentes) et celles du Havre (non moins sensibles mais grondantes) rendent justice aux façons qu’ont les deux musiciens d’interroger, ensemble ou séparément, et l’expérimentation et la matière sonore. Quant aux « nouvelles façons d’écouter », ne pourraient-elles pas mener à de nouvelles façons d’entendre ? En attendant, on parlera là de six paysages pour ne pas avoir à trouver les mots de sons et de sonorités qui se rencontrent, interfèrent, et accouchent enfin d’espaces inédits auxquels l’auditeur devra bien faire une place : en tête, ventre, et cœur même.
Guillaume Belhomme, Le son du grisli, mai 2020
Sélection musicale du GRM et de Joseph Ghosn, France Musique
Le lundi 27 avril 2020 à 12h00