Formanex

Live at Extrapool

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Cornelius Cardew's Treatise reigns like a king over the territory of graphic scores. At the turn of the millennium, as the composer's legacy was gaining in recognition, performances of portions of the 236-page mammoth became more frequent. With his score leaving the instrumentation up to the performers' choice, they vary greatly, both in terms of sound palette and interest. The French electro-acoustic improv group Formanex selected a few pages for a concert held at Extrapool, an art space in Nijmegen (Netherlands). Textural electric guitars, lo-fi electronics, and digital manipulation were shaped by Anthony Taillard, Christophe Havard, Julien Ottavi, and Emmanuel Leduc to follow Cardew's suggestive graphics. What the listener hears is a good improvisation, actually more than free improv since some starts, stops, and gestures clearly result from some degree of control and preparation -- that's the only compositional aspect that comes through for someone who does not have the score under his eyes. The performance is interesting, but surely not transcendent. The limits in recording quality (the listener can't shake off a feeling of ambient recording, which creates an unwelcomed distance) and occasional bad mixing (some sounds from contact microphones and feedback come in way too loud) mar the experience. Three of those musicians do more convincing music under the name Digital Live Radio Session.

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