Michel Doneda

Montagne Noire

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In which our heroes, French saxophonist Michel Doneda and percussionist Le Quan Ninh hie themselves to the Tarn region of France, specifically that occupied by an imposing shelf of dark shale known as Montagne Noire, and freely improvise in the environs, on cliff sides, in streams, and in abandoned warehouses. Both of these musicians practice a "non-idiomatic" form of improvisation, and Ninh especially is concerned with immersing himself into the surrounding environment, so much so that there are several occasions here when it's difficult to differentiate between the human-produced music and ambient sound. Ninh is an altogether astounding musician, having paid his dues in the contemporary classical world, specializing in works by composers such as Xenakis, Varese, and Messiaen. His main instrument is often a large bass drum, positioned horizontally and attacked with all manner of implements from cymbals and metal bowls to pine cones and Styrofoam. He possesses both a superb ear for timbres and a taste for rhythmic virtuosity, though his patterns are often subtle, even when ferocious. Doneda, as writer Dan Given once pointed out, plays his saxophone more like a piece of holed metal than anyone around. His sound is generally harsh, breathy, and metallic, yet somehow -- at least in this context -- as natural sounding as a passing brook, a gust of wind, or a cascade of stones down a mountainside. Together, Doneda and Ninh evidence a remarkable ability to listen both to one another and to the sounds and space around them, creating an extremely fine, freely improvised release (wonderfully recorded by the two "microphonists," appropriately given equal billing in the credits). Special mention should also be made of the gorgeous packaging; the disc is accompanied by several large (6" by 8") photos of the recording locations and contained in a clear, soft vinyl envelope. Very highly recommended for fans of adventurous music.

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