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CD Feature/ Sebastien Roux & Greg Davis: "Merveilles"

img  Tobias

What constitutes reality, what is truth? Needless to say and without wanting to start any kind of tiresome philosophical debate, the works of Sebastien Roux and Greg Davis are indelibly marked by a quest for answers to these questions. While Roux is walking the border line between pure environmental sounds, acousmatics and careful compositions of concrete elements, Davis has dedicated himself to the blurry intersections between various genres such as Folk, Prog Rock and Drones, while examining them with the ears of a Sound Artist. Their respective works don't deny the existence of categories, but, by rigorously ignoring their dogmatic rules and postulations, provide the listener with means to overcome them.

There is a second meaning to the introductory question, however. When I first listened to „Merveilles“ and without immersing myself neither in the press release nor the information provided in the booklet, my impression was shaped by nothing but song titles and sounds. The former pointed to a wondrous collection of surreal and moody musical city portraits, the latter towards a seemingly infinite imagination and a strong sense of humour: The idyllic town of „Geneva“ flashes by as a one-minute clattering Noise collage with garishly squeaking melodies and full-tilt distortion, while the creative moloch „London“ is portrayed by a slowly building soundscape, which, in a sudden stroke of genius, picks up rhythmical qualities. On „Eugene“ (Oregon), clinicaly dissected microsounds morph into a warm, undulating tapestry, while „San Franciso“, with its starry-eyed acoustic Guitars and pastoral strobe-light psychedelia, sounds like an hommage to the romantic utopian visions of the 70s.

By joining forces, it appeared to me, Roux and Davis had taken their interest in deconstructing barriers one step further. By surrendering a piece of their own identity into a shared pool of ideas, the conceptuality of their approaches had been reduced to the absolute minimum, to the point where their personalities were still appreciatively recognisable but no longer metaphorically symbolising of anything anymore. „Merveilles“ was emotional music in a perfectly pure way, flowing with grace and elegance and deciding on the next step on the grounds of intuition alone. Listening to it was as much a process of gradual intellectual understanding as of simple sensual enjoyment.

Later, when sitting down to write the review, I discovered that it was a lot more still: A live document of an international tour between 2005 and 2006, which coincidentally also explains for the track titles. A meeting between two figureheads of two very different strands of the experimental music spectrum. And a blend of improvised parts and prepared material, as well as of sampled extracts from existing works and completely new passages. One half of the pieces was recorded in Europe and in January, when the Swiss mountains were probably still clad in white, and the other in the USA in May, when autumn was already approaching.

All of this allows for completely new interpretations of the music. One could say that the duo are researching the duopol of composition and improvisation here. That these live documents show the impact of context and environment on the creative process. That reality is always a conglomerate of many different aspects and never ends with a mere summary of superficial formalities. The important question, however, is whether these discussions would add anything to the music. In my opinion, the sweet sensation of immersing oneself in these rich tonal symphonies is enough of a reality to forget about the so-called objective facts completely.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Sebastien Roux
Homepage: Greg Davis
Homepage: Ahornfelder Records

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