NOHC stands for nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, the four chemical elements at the basis of life. This group and album are led by cellist Didier Petit, but the compositions and improvisations are credited to the whole quartet -- that is, with the exception of three tracks penned by Petit and Albert Ayler's "Mothers," which concludes the disc. The music is presented in the form of three suites, but these constructions are artificial, a post-production thing (Petit will use the same trick for the Leo CD NOHC on the Road, seguing short pieces from different concerts). There are two tendencies at play in the music. One points to a form of avant-garde jazz derived from Ayler and Steve Lacy. The other has an eye on the legacy of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, thriving to find a non-idiomatic form of improvisation, focusing on texture and interplay. It is a tug of war between the two, and the group has a lot of fun throwing them one against the other in these suites. Petit, a cellist who can be both romantic and highly abstract, is accompanied by saxophonist Daunik Lazro, Denis Colin on bass clarinet, and violinist Michael Nick. They soar, they sing, they blow, they even laugh together (for three minutes in "Techno 2: Rigoletto," a disturbing exercise). The result is spellbinding. The four musicians have created a new form of life, and you hear it live out its contradictory hopes. From the dark textures of "Big Bang au Tibet" to the utter stupidity of the rendition of "Mothers" (the perfect anti-finale?), NOHC won't let you reclaim your attention for an hour. This group's rejection of any stylistic limitations or sacred grounds has a lasting refreshing taste.
AllMusic Review by François Couture