Two percussionists with a reductive approach to their instruments meet in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy (France) for a two-day, four-hour long recording session, and 75 minutes of selected music from the session find their way to La Voyelle Liquide (The Liquid Vowel), released on Erstwhile, one of the only American labels to give a channel of expression to improvisers working with electronics. Günter Müller and Lê Quan Ninh both perform on as few drums and cymbals at a time as possible. They try to extract every possible sound from their instruments, enhancing the palette with electronics. More from less; this axiom defines their approach, but also the resulting music. These improvisations remain quiet, delicate, often on the verge of collapsing from their own fragility -- and yet they don't. The listener is torn between two choices: trying to understand how they did it (which sounds are "natural" manipulations and which are electronic transformations -- and, for that matter, transformations of what sound source?) or simply letting go and embarking on this peculiar aural journey. Things can get noisier and busier at times (in parts of "La Voyelle U" and "La Voyelle E"), but the music usually remains low-key, developing by successive impressionistic touches (on "La Voyelle I," it becomes so sparse that it is hard to grasp). The most adventurous ears will be delighted. The artistic success of La Voyelle Liquide resides in the fact that the listener never feels the instrumental limitations the musicians imposed on themselves.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture