What is the academic electro-acoustic composer Bernard Parmegiani doing on a label whose catalog features mostly Japanese noise rock (Acid Mothers Temple, Mainliner, etc.) and weird industrial music (Ilitch, Musique Concret, etc.)? Surprising, yes, but one listen to this collection of works from the late '60s and early '70s and you will agree that JazzEx feels right at home in Fractal's roster. Ranging from acutely avant-garde pieces for tape and live instruments to quirky sound collages, this album is one colorful acid trip (no offense to Parmegiani!). The title track is the main dish. Clocking in at 17 minutes, "JazzEx" is the result of a collaboration between the composer and a free jazz quartet consisting of Jean-Louis Chautemps (sax), Bernard Vitet (trumpet), Gilbert Rovère (double bass) and Charles Saudrais (drums). The tape part was derived from recordings of the quartet that were manipulated in very creative ways, and the musicians interact with this part in real time, improvising their way through the piece. The result was resolutely ahead of its time, relegating most every other "psychedelic" experiment of the time to childhood noodling. The piece is fierce, complex, driving and relentless. It still sounds fresh to this day. "Pop'eclectic" (an "electro-acoustic divertimento" taken from a soundtrack for a 1969 film by Peter Foldés) and "Du Pop à l'Âne" (1969) are two sound collages playing on the peculiarity of sonic meetings and the level of familiarity of the listener with their sources. "Du Pop à l'Âne" is a revised Top 100 of the '60s, where the Doors become one with Frank Zappa (among other pairings). The sources are ominously recognizable. It makes for an entertaining listen with a few twists and turns, but it remains more of a time capsule than an impressive composition. "Pop'eclectic" is a more subtle affair, hinting at pastiches of the popular genres of concert and film music of the era. It also has a strong psychedelic influence that brings the resulting music close to some of Makoto Kawabata's experiments. The final work, "Et Après" (1973) is slightly more what you would expect from Parmegiani. A piece for bandoneon and tape (consisting of treated bandoneon sounds), it offers a frantic choreographed duet around a tango fragment. The version included here was recorded in 1996 and features Michel Portal (who had also premiered the work in 1973). JazzEx is not essential Parmegiani, but he may help revise some of our preconceptions about this pillar of French electro-acoustic music.
AllMusic Review by François Couture
feat: Michel Portal