French experimental sax player Nicolas Stephan explains his desire to record the solo album Null out of a need to explore the intimate threads of the language of the saxophone and to search for the most personal timbres. Stephan improvised on the tenor and straight alto saxes, trumpet and synth while playing with scratched vinyl, as he wanted the feeling of interacting with sounds, «produced mechanically, with a random element». Null is released as a 12″ vinyl maxi-single, played at 45 RPM and with a download option.
«Rouge Zéro» on the first side of the album is a raw exploration of Stephan’s manner of composing solo, often disturbed by random sounds and voices from the scratched vinyl (including of the French band Guess What). Slowly, Stephan gravitates into a brief melodic vein expressed on his tenor sax with an eerie layer of modular synth.
The first piece on the second side, the spacious «Arbres et Rivière», was written for straight alto sax (which Stephan played with a tenor mouthpiece), and it offers a more simple structure where Stephan explores the resonant, multiphonic timbres of the sax through slow repetitive motifs and microtonal variations. Its hypnotic, ritualist spirit is intensified by its recording via a multitude of sources. The second piece on this side, «33» is called by Stephan a «produced improvisation» rewritten and replayed, on a 33rd vinyl without a cover (He did not know which band it was). Stephan played the tenor and alto sax, alto clarinet and trumpet, and a modular synth with Sébastien Brun who added drums and electronics. This is the most engaging but still strange in this interesting sonic experiment.
Nicolas Stephan (tenor saxophone, straight alto saxophone, scratched vinyl, alto clarinet, trumpet, synthesizer), Sébastien Brun (drums, electronics)