Christoph Erb / Frantz Loriot – Sceneries

(Creative Sources)

Any improvising duo can drown in the slimy waters of run-of-the-mill jugglery lacking a real purpose. Several albums — including renowned ones — have proven that this format looks ideal for hypnotizing over-trusting audiences with a bunch of technical exercises dispatched for creativity during endless invocations to the Mother of all Vacuities.

But wait; there’s also something called “commitment”. Saxophonist Christoph Erb (here doubling on tenor and soprano) and violist Frantz Loriot possess great experience both as participants in variously shaped collaborations and instigators of ensembles. Still, a record like Sceneries is rare to hear nowadays. Its five episodes are characterized by the force of a tacit agreement: each player seems entirely concentrated on his instrument rather than tending the ears towards what the other is doing. Of course that’s not true, for the reciprocal trust is obvious. Yet the desire of penetrating the sound individually, almost at a molecular level, is out-and-out scary in its persuasive energy.

So, what you get is an impressive variety of deformations of regularity spiced with disjointed scraps of timbral wholeness, as to remind us that skill and will can coexist without fighting. The music’s character is more or less always spiky, in your face, the acoustic picture of a self-sustaining creature determined to survive even in the worst possible conditions. The tones reveal all the components, the upper partials muscular and defined, the noisy qualities extremely usable in sheer musical terms. Convoluted whirlwinds and calcified anti-melodies destroy any residual resistance of silence, relentlessly forcing our attention to fire on all cylinders. At times one needs a few additional seconds to detect what is playing what, such is the degree of sonic transcendence reached. In that sense, a track named “Tinct” hits the ribs like a Korean flyweight, not leaving a single second to the listener to catch some breath.

Erb and Loriot could be compared to a couple of arsonists who, instead of running away after having done damage, stay there to admire the artistic values of their acts while continuing to add fuel. They just enjoy feeling the crackling of the flames so close to their bodies. Guess what: so do we.