Once you start following Jean-Luc Guionnet's career, you cannot help but be amazed at the number of roads his creativity can follow. A composer of electro-acoustic music and a free improviser on the saxophone, for Pentes he turns to the church organ. Recorded over two days of April 2001 in Notre Dame des Champs (Paris) by longtime collaborator Eric La Casa, this album showcases Guionnet exploring both the minimalist and maximalist possibilities of the instrument. Not a common tool for improvisers, the church organ has nevertheless gained popularity in 2002, with albums by Nils Henrik Asheim (solo) and Gary Verkade (in duo with Steve Nelson-Raney) also being released within a few months from each other. But the Frenchman is looking for something else than the two virtuosos: texture. In "Cornement," thick rumbles in the bass register conjure up a dangerous-sounding atmosphere, not at all what you'd expect to hear in a church! "Registres" explores the many registers of the instrument, finally settling for minimal microtonal overlaps strongly recalling Sachiko M.'s sine wave experiments. "Récit & Tremblant" accumulates notes in a chatty soliloquy, while "Portevent" chops up a drone with the use of register changes (while holding down the note). It creates the illusion that the piece could be a collage of electro-acoustic manipulations -- talk about finding a new approach (and sound) for the instrument! Guionnet's music is rarely pleasant; instead it challenges, deconstructing the organ's heavy past (including Olivier Messiaen) when it is not dismissing it altogether. Unusual and fascinating.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture