Jean-Luc Guionnet


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Recorded over three days at Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy in September 2001, &Un is alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet and electric guitarist Olivier Benoit's first session as a duo. Depending on which of the two musicians you follow the most, the album can be surprising or not. From Guionnet's point-of-view, it feels like the logical next step to his electro-acoustic works (Axène) and his involvement in the group Hubbub. His playing here is ever more stripped-down, stretching toward the lowercase aesthetics of Franz Hautzinger, Scott Rosenberg, or John Butcher. Phrases are cut short; even the uttering of notes is only half-blown. Often, he manages to make his instrument sound like a bass clarinet. Shifting your standpoint to Benoit, things feel a bit different. He used to be more flamboyant. He liked textures, but never sounded this fragmentary and condensed. The encounter is conclusive, both musicians developing a vocabulary of microscopic events that occasionally escalate to something bigger and louder -- only to keep you guessing. The untitled tracks tend to be mistaken for one another, but taken as a whole, the album still makes sense, even if it is a bit tiresome. This music belongs to the same kind of abstract, listening-heavy improv as Dachte Musik and Polwechsel, yet it lacks something more accomplished. It can't shake off the tentative outlooks of a first round. The booklet deserves a special mention. It is actually a set of separate see-through leafs, each adding letters to lines that must be read vertically. That will also keep you guessing.