Stéphane Rives

Fibres

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The saxophone as an aeolian harp; the saxophonist as the wind -- that, in a nutshell, is Stéphane Rives' approach on Fibres ("Fibers"). There is no attempt to be musical or to organize sound into composed or instinctive or even emotive structures. Rives' intention is to let the soprano saxophone change the sound of his circular breathing as if it were an audio filter. Each piece consists of a single long breath, an uninterrupted flow of wind passing through the embouchure of the instrument and running inside its body. Rives manages to keep the sound within the range of the barely audible (brilliantly captured by recording engineer Nicolas Guérin), on the threshold of lush multiphonics and awful squeak. Some pieces whine like a sine wave ensemble, others gurgle and bubble like an abstract piece of musique concrète or laptop sound art. The sounds are in constant flux, as they are natural and breath is never truly even and fingers cannot remain motionless in a half-open key position -- and yet the music is tightly controlled. So Fibres offers a very intriguing listen, one of the most puzzling of late, extremely difficult as it stubbornly refuses to provide the listener with any anchor point (there is not even a word of explanation on the inlay card). One can only wonder "how he does it" and marvel over the fact that the very existence of these pieces illustrates a unique kind of virtuosity. If Rives' approach is opposed to Evan Parker's own extended techniques (stillness versus perpetual motion), other improvisers have explored his path. But neither John Butcher nor Alessandro Bosetti -- no one! -- has taken microsonics this far before.

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