Balises documents a meeting of two friends and idiosyncratic free improvisers – French clarinetist Xavier Charles and Canadian, Québec-based jazz punk bassist Éric Normand. Charles and Normand recorded before a duo album – Avis Aux Réacteurs (Inexhaustible Editions, 2018) and collaborated in other formats including with Normand’s experimental improvising orchestra Le GGRIL (Grand Groupe Régional d’Improvisation Libérée) (Façons, Tour de Bras/Circum Disc, 2019).
Balises was recorded (and mixed and mastered by Charles and Normand) in one day at Coop Paradis in Normand’s hometown in February 2022 and is described by Charles and Normand as «dree as the air, but lost at sea» and as «music that has nothing to prove». Charles and Normand are not only fearless and radical improvisers but also curious sound artists who are not shy of exploring and investigating strange and otherworldly noises. Obviously, Charles employs extended breathing techniques and Normand creates electric flux homemade bass which is equipped with mics and objects feedbacking and vibrating in small electronic devices. Surprisingly, the atmosphere of this meeting is peaceful, sometimes even meditative, and contemplative. Often these duos correspond with the album title and sound like cryptic transmissions from an alien spaceship to local, earthly sympathizers.
Normand and Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger first met in 2016 when both played in the quintet Torche! with Charles, with fellow Canadian bass clarinetist Philippe Lauzier and drummer Michel F. Côté (Torche!, Tour de Bras, 2017). They continued to collaborate in different formats, with Belgian Tom Mamendier and French sound artist eRikm. Unbelievably Late was recorded by Hautzinger and Normand at different remote locations during 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is a «collage of different moments in time, the result of a ‘rendezvous’ that became unbelievably late».
Hautzinger plays here on an amplified trumpet and Normand adds motors to his effects-laded electric bass, and needless to add, both improvisers use their instruments as resourceful sound generators. The atmosphere is similar to the minimalist and spacious, sound-oriented one of Balises, but more intimate. Hautzinger’s extended breathing techniques as well as his breathy articulations and Normand’s motors add at times an enigmatic aroma of percussive rustles, sometimes even of hypnotic electronic drones (check «Attendre la fin»). At other times both Hauzinger and Normand sound like they were involved in a busy yet subtle chat of restless birds (check «The third wait for a second»). Mysterious and suggestive, and highly gratifying.
Xavier Charles (clarinet), Éric Normand (electric bass, motors), Franz Hautzinger (amplified trumpet)