Objets d'tart? That is certainly the flavor setting tongues and palettes wagging on Duos..., one of the more extreme releases on a label already credited with envelope-pushing. Instrument listing ranges from the known and the descriptive to the unusual and obscure, but all three gents here ply their trade most demonstrably by attacking the aforementioned objects: Epinat augments his arsenal of sound-makers with acoustic guitar, Forge squeaks trombone in-between, through and above, while Bertholon "plays" electric lighter and quartz clock, as well as the recording itself, chalked up (probably) to some ingenious processing or other, or through obtuse laptop interfacing. Either way, the confusingly titled Duos... (surely this is a group effort? What else might it be?) is an exercise in simultaneous elation and frustration.
Note that ellipsis in the album name — connoting high ambiguity, rampant mystery, a hefty degree of the unknown, barely-recognized glimpses into the palpable, those three seemingly insignificant dots emphasize that there's something indefinable afoot. Actually, it's Forge's trombone that cuts like a machete through the spindly underbrush, particularly on the second piece, "Saturday the 4th of September 2004, 16h23m, Leafy Forest", Epinat's henpecked guitar so threadbare it acts like a sonic exfoliant on the parchment-dry surroundings. That is, of course, when it's detectable: most of the time, the trio is reluctant to let the seams show in their music, interspersing pregnant pauses with the shallow decay of their struck objects in the hope that somehow these rubbed surfaces will catch fire. Even if their intentions are less bombastic — remember, this is a rarified, piecemeal music, all fits and starts, low on drama to begin with — the soundfield would benefit from a more pronounced virulence out of the players. As is, the odd (and little) skronk, squeal, titter, and tatter amount to, well, little. Duos... seems to proclaim that reductionism in improv isn't a "trend" but rather a mandate, doing as much as possible with the fewest implements. Fine on face, yet what this trio champions here trades minimalist invention for a desert of disconnected ideas; no doubt the artists feel otherwise, but unhinged squeals do not a record make.
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