Reporting on records by artists whose standing equals that of Phillips, Jauniaux and Goldstein is getting harder and harder. The typical stratagem of employing the review’s first half to recount an artist’s career in pills, thus smartly reducing the analytical space, is not acceptable to this writer. On the other hand, the propensity for enthusiasm in front of an unimpeachable release is malignantly stigmatized by incompetent members of the official intelligentsia.
Make no mistake, though: Birds Abide is a great record, the remarkable fusion of three profound souls constantly striving for shared excellence. The set — recorded at the Victoriaville Festival in May 2010 — consists of six tracks that communicate urgency, theatrical qualities, extraordinary technical prowess and the sort of enlightened quest for unlikelihood that pushes an improvising artist to choose the less expected move. In this particular case the attitude is totally winning, the resulting music appearing as a crying-and-kicking newborn creature.
Jauniaux is definitively back to her highest highs, a voice able to scintillate, peep, squirrel-talk and cut like a sword. Occasionally she’s also a fine imitator of her partners’ string-based expressiveness, the fruit of decades of manual practice but — above all — of a complete development of the ability of listening interactively. Goldstein’s violin generates fragile fireflies, hard crumbles and melodic splinters, the emotional control remaining consistent throughout. Phillips sustains the influence of the lower frequencies adding a stouter percussiveness without flinching when necessary; his participation in the performance’s more elegiac circumstances — the moments in which the trio really becomes a single, multi-faceted entity — is certainly essential. Exactly as is this album, which one feels glad to hold after a mere couple of listens.