Jean-Luc Guionnet / Eric La Casa / Philip Samartzis – Stray Shafts Of Sunlight


With regard to its precursor Soleil D’Artifice on this same label, the second disc by this French/Australian troika deals more often with feeble illumination and unhealthy urgency — spelled “sense of oppression” — in spite of its title. The mixing of live sets from 2007 in Germany, Italy and France was performed five years later by La Casa, who perhaps should be credited as the effective “composer” in this case.

The spaces may be large and barren, but they’re almost never completely empty. The fixed rates of the electronic frequencies integrate the reflections of Guionnet’s saxophone innards for brief segments in the first movement, then remain alone in between unkind hums and whirs. The reedist’s “human” component is nevertheless cold-blooded, to a point of near-equivalence with the sounds released by the machines. In the middle track, an extensive voyage where industrialized starkness and distant memories commingle inside massive mutations, we found ourselves swept over by the psychological powerfulness of selected layers. Intelligently, faraway reverberations of “regular” musicality — a radio, a jazz guitar played by someone, a woman intoning “La Vie En Rose”, quick-paced heels in a nocturnal urban landscape — are thrown in sparsely to assure that we’re still in the corporeal variant. Yet the forward-looking arrangement appears as masterfully glacial, no remorse shown for the ear-perking listener. The closing slice begins with pressurized sonorities hardly grazed by a series of unsteady reed pitches, and stays in the same territories: indiscernible under-rhythms, aerial views of utter desolation, sudden quacks, percussive surges, cryptic discharges, something running within the rusty tubes of a decaying bathroom; it might be residual waters, or cockroaches, or the outset of our mind’s disintegration process.

Thought-provoking material, to say the least. These gentlemen possess a unique capability of turning a mixture of normal incidents and adroit manipulations into recordings that make one ponder deeply about the less than secondary role we’ve been given as (hypothetically) sentient creatures, the weakest links in the chain of recurrent misconception. Fortunately, the possibility exists to acquire what’s truly essential from the only trustworthy educator: sound.