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Muruyama/Guionnet: Window Dressing; Muruyama/Rives: Axiom for the Duration

img  Tobias Fischer

In the sinking daylight, the ringlets of sax seem to spit across the other side of the room as percussion skitters against the wood grains. You begin to find yourself laying prone in the middle of the intractable conversation between rat shit scabble and sudden orange blooms of sunlight. Seijiro Murayama and Jean-Luc Guionnet’s music exists with no prior need. It proceeds without any acknowledgement of its audience. It lacks the aural head-tilts or the showy gesture. In its very lack of recognizable syntax, the music breathes of its own volition. And thank Jesus it’s up to you to figure your own way through it, to chart its choked aloofness. The gulfs of silence that brim between the pockets of their activity are unforced, unhurried -- but rife with a tension. A repeated honk in the dark and a rebuttal of near-inaudible striations -- if it’s not non-existence they’re after then it’s a subtle symbiosis embroidered in obscurity.

I’m hesitant to say that this is music for everyone. This is most certainly not music that functions as an appeal. What it lacks in dynamics, it makes up for in a subtle strain of the wait. Of that long desire that manifests itself in sleepless nights, in your secret implosion in the passenger seat of a moving car.

I mark time with cups of coffee as I listen. I move my hand against the coffee table in long strokes,  probing scratches, patches of dulled enamel, crumbs collecting between my ring and finger; Murayama punctuates a rife silence, his percussion charting out space with a stubborn tattoo or a goading slink. Don’t get me wrong, there is no pay off, no climax, no passionate release. You leave the music with hat still in hand. Window dressing? I hear no concealment here; if they’re hiding at all, it’s in plain sight. The hermetic language they drawl becomes so contorted that you find yourself hanging on every misheard word. All flaws seem readily apparent, lingered over, and presented with little accord. It’s an album as bare as this table, as bitter as this cooling coffee, undeniably appealing in its way; although I’m slightly masochistic. I enjoy frustration. I enjoy the work. And this is certainly work.

And if Window Dressing is marked by its stubborn refusal to commit, Axiom for the Duration bleeds itself out with a stinging acuteness, as bright and acid as Kenya AA. Rives plays his soprano with a marked precision, committing unending breath to something close to the purity of a bat squeal -- appealing in its lack of distraction. It’s not that his playing is single-minded as much as it’s not prone to the kind of digression found in an Evan Parker or John Butcher. Rives lingers as long as an idea demands, riding a tone until it fully reveals itself. Murayama proves his diversity of approaches here, and couples with these elongated tones, piercing straight through this afternoon haze in a thin astringent line.

I would love to see them play this live, if only to witness the seemingly herculean concentrated effort, the weaponizing of their tones into something so much greater than the sum of their parts. Just as uncompromising as Window Dressing, this album is far more brutal; the pitch density at times is intense, writhing under a surgical light. I love it to death even it scares the hell out of me those times I forget it’s in the player, and I wake up to insectoid death rattles. Why does grind-core send me to sleep, but this slaps me awake and casts me into a Dr. Who-level existential dread? I’m very goddamned pleased that improvised music can still make me this uneasy. It reminds me of first hearing the early Collective Calls, if not for direct aural similarity as it is for Rives and Murayama’s fondness for a kind of intellectual perversity. Lest I give the appearance that this all just a provocation, one can’t forget just how accomplished the end results are, and how much is said with so little.

When it all seems that improvised sax/drums duos amount to little more than a mass of notes played at the highest velocity with as many pyrotechnic techniques as possible, it’s refreshing to sit for a while in one so intent on process, on the expansion of a single area. I’m refreshed by Axiom for the Duration as I am disoriented. What more can you ask for?         

By Tanner Servoss

Homepage: Seijiro Muruyama
Homepage: Jean-Luc Guionnet
Homepage: Stéphane Rives
Homepage: Potlatch Recordings

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