Jean-Luc Guionnet & Daichi Yoshikawa Intervivos

[Empty Editions; 2018]

Styles: ritual, electroacoustic improvisation, electronic music
Others: Rashad Becker, Seymour Wright, Yves Tumor

Intervivos opens with a pause (looking for an angle, a way out from the uninhabitable mindset that is evasion) just long enough for the blasted saxophone pattern that follows to feel like a desperate way out. But it fails, checks itself, and instead lingers (as a pining strain of feedback needles into view after 10-odd seconds of silence) in the elliptical space between voices, hanging in the extension, refusing to leave despite it being a scorched zone, charged with noxious affect and a kind of ambient, unresolved wailing.

A collaboration between alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet and electroacoustic feedback artist Daichi Yoshikawa, Intervivos sees Guionnet conjuring an extended alto saxophone technique to embark, along with Yoshikawa’s electronic feedback systems, upon a series of four improvisations. Recorded over a week-long residency at Hong Kong’s Empty Gallery (and released via that space’s very own publishing imprint Empty Editions), the resultant record strikes an unlikely balance between elliptical, open-ended ambience and a desiccated, corroded sonic brutality that registers most immediately at the affective level of dread, which gives way and blooms into its antecedents: the suppressed, unutterable, traumatized materials where nameless bad affect grows.

These reanimated materials become compositional tools: Guionnet and Yoshikawa incant, with the dried-out, sundered materials of used-up idioms and instrumentality-under-duress, the condition of possibility for a speculative zone hanging in the world between the living, inaugurating a nascent set of techniques for extended cognition.


What precisely is an extended technique? That is to ask: from where and to what does it extend?

With its roots in experimental musics of the 20th century, extended technique traditionally refers simply to a musician playing their instrument in a manner outside of traditionally established norms. A convention-based threshold for extension, however, is necessarily tenuous and flimsy, always linked to a particular moment in time. Throughout the next hundred years, free-jazz and experimental improvisation (idioms in in which Guionnet and Yoshikawa are steeped) would congeal and stiffen into their own aesthetic casts, becoming psychic barriers and technical limitations in their own right.

Indeed, Intervivos seems (almost desperately at times) to palpably seek to exceed and overspill its own popped materials, to overcome the limns of instrumentality whether by way of blasted, contorted air, the percussive corrosion exacted by physical blows, or merely the willingness to embrace fugitivity: to abandon and leave nascent musical structures temporarily promethean as husks, corpses, to trust silence before disingenuous resolution. A recurrent motif between the players involves a nauseating, siren-like ramping up of disharmony: the reactionary, queasy up-churn of the saxophone’s pitch in lurid disharmony with the percussive squalls of Yoshikawa’s feedback, which, in the moment just before “breakthrough,” inexorably give way to more languid silence, to the surrender of the occupied materials. This pensive brutality — this willingness to hang in the space between self-resentment, reactionary evasion, and utopian world-building — is what makes Intervivos a difficult and elusive but ultimately enthralling listen.

The macro-level structure of the record testifies to this elusive quality: statistically, it’s symmetrical, bookended by two long pieces with two shorter takes in the middle. But in listening, one is never sure whether the record just began or is about to end. Saxophone and electrical noise reincarnate in different idiomatic modes (percussive thumps and thrusts, wobbly harmonic runs, languid and coruscant drones, even coruscating runic calls) almost perpetually, by turns indistinguishable and then at odds, but with that tidal return to mutual bewilderment, quietude, and entanglement.


If we were to follow the myth of technological progress implicit within much contemporary electronic music — that listener-internalized utopian impulse critiqued in the 2017 year-end essay “Traditional Music of A Wrecked Species” by TMT’s Nick James Scavo (who, full disclosure, assisted Empty Editions on this release) — we would be tempted to understand Guionnet’s saxophone as extending out from the hollowed-out clichés of the acoustic, corporeal past, up into the disembodied, seamless, and perfectable designs of the futuristic present.

But as Scavo’s essay stresses, the present world, too, is covered in seams, errors, and traumatic rends. And maybe that very ruinousness is what bears examination: the dialectical trap of this unresolved, precarious moment is precisely what Guionnet and Yoshikawa’s Intervivos inhabits, however strangely.

And of course, even the ingenious extended cognitive techniques of Intervivos can never truly exceed, rip through, or tame their own broken materials — this is exactly what’s speculative about it, and why it demands listening. I have avoided returning to this record, precisely because it’s vexed and refuses to merely purge the repressed, shitty affect: rather, it lingers in the painfully tender cohabitation of extended cognition, where the seams and inbuilt brokenness of the channels mediating between us uncannily intone notional conditions of possible modes of being hitherto unforeseeable within our own busted plans.

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

Most Read