Catherine Jauniaux / eRikm – Mal Des Ardents / Pantonéon


A review should never be inaugurated by an immediate verdict, but today the ordinance is going to be disobeyed. I’m thoroughly impressed by this double CD, which presents selections from concerts separated by an 11-year span. In fact the first disc commingles pieces from two performances in Besançon and Montpellier dating from 2011, whereas the second documents a set taped in Basel during 2000’s Taktlos festival. Although the pair’s distinctive features remain prominent throughout, the shows unwrap fairly different atmospheres: the later material appears ingeniously configured and quite often pervaded by fine irony, while the older recital contains several dramatic moments, a reasonably suspenseful environment characterizing some of its episodes.

In both circumstances, there’s not a truly efficient way to verbalize how amazing the connections between Jauniaux and eRikm are. I could have sworn that certain tracks were born from previously agreed substrata, for there’s not a single event all over the release sounding disjointed or nonchalantly thrown. The artists acknowledge their respective instant inclinations, aware of each other’s instinctive motions to produce sonorities that appear perfect for all occurrences. The vocalist displays an awesome array of characters, personalities and combinations of pitches in a somewhat schizophrenic exhibition of implausible alternations; one moment we’re reminded of early Meredith Monk, the next may hint to Jöelle Léandre’s theatrics (“La Mer”), elsewhere an obsessed Edith Piaf replica is ranting in fictional jargons. Yet at the same time it’s all Jauniaux, a typical integration of fleecy frailness and foaming at the mouth amidst fragments from Ovide, Rilke or Gainsbourg. The work of eRikm is definitely subtler but, on occasion, even more stunning. The man seems to know exactly what’s indispensable to create the ideal prospect at every juncture, utilizing skipping-and-looping incidents and live sampling with absolute mastery. Hiccuping bumps, mesmeric drones, a ragbag of twisted patterns, lacerated chords and sloping melodies, musical genres dissolved with the rational chilliness of a serial killer; a lesson in acousmatic efficiency without bells and whistles, intelligence at the service of aural asymmetry.

A superficial listen will unavoidably cause someone to regard these miniature masterpieces as merely “amusing”; primitive ears might find them mildly annoying. The point, in either case, would be entirely missed. This music is the expression of a whole life in pills – traumas, quests, revelations, gloominess, exuberance, inner nakedness – enriched with the kind of firm belief and technical command that only the foremost practitioners of the art of improvisation can bring to the table.