Sylvain Rifflet: Alphabet (2012)
There is no suitable title for French composer/reed player Sylvain Rifflet's uartet other than Alphabet, a name that begins to describe the rich contemporary language of this unique quartet. Rifflet mixes influences, from Tom Waits' use of junk percussive instruments and Captain Beefheart's anarchistic sound collages to the sound designs of film composer Cliff Martinez (known for his soundtracks for the films of director Steven Soderbergh), and a shows a deep knowledge of the work of minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
Each member of this quartet also uses electronics in order to enhance their own inventive sound palette, and together they create a sound like a whole orchestra. The composed parts, all by Rifflet, melt organically into the improvisations and tough the compositions conceptual titles sound cerebral the music is playful, full of imagination and emotional.
The album develops as a set of suites. The two-part "Hyper Imaginative JuKe (box)" sounds, at first, like a spare, lyrical suite led by flautist Jocelyn Mienniel's expressive playing, but then other layers of sounds are added recorded voice, industrial metallic percussive sounds, atmospheric guitar and otherworldly electronics and this gentle piece becomes charged with a mean tension that evaporates immediately at its coda. "Electronic Fire Gun" and "To Z" are structured as a powerful prog-rock suites, with dramatic, muscular and tight shifts in each of their segments.
"® and Silence," "À l'heure" and "Q" contrast Benjamin Flament's industrial percussive sounds with Philippe Gordiani's delicate playing on electric and acoustic guitars, and culminate with merry dialogues. On "Q," Rifflet and Mienniel float smoothly over these percussive sounds.
"C not equal D," in its two parts, pays tribute to Reich and Glass' seminal minimalist writing with their repeated patterns in unison, but the quartet expands the minimalist composers' legacies with surprising elements as Gordiani's distorted solo guitar and Mienniel's soft and meditative flute solo both fit naturally with its intense minimalist structure. "A=B" joyfully deconstructs the former severe minimalist vein with childish charm. The concluding "Vowels, Kids & Ballons" continues to mix and destruct such different elements as Middle Eastern flute, surf guitar and extended breathing techniques on clarinet into an addictive, playful dance.
A powerful masterpiece.
Track Listing: Hyper Imaginative JuKe (box) (part 1); Hyper Imaginative JuKe (box) (part 2); Electronic Fire Gun; To Z; ® and Silence; À l'heure; Q; C≠D (part 1); C≠D (part 2); A=B; Vowels, Kids & Ballons.
Personnel: Sylvain Rifflet: saxophone, clarinets, metallophone, electronics; Jocelyn Mienniel: flutes, electronics; Benjamin Flament: percussion, electronics; Philippe Gordiani: guitars, electronics.
Record Label: Self Produced