RDV De L'Erdre 2012
The Saturday and Sunday schedule began each afternoon at around 2pm, then continued until late into the night. This was when the crowds really began to descend on the river banks, promenading along the lines of frazzling exotic food stalls (a Malagasy joint claiming the obscurity prize), filling the street front café spaces and trawling from stage-to-stage clutching wine, beer, or sometimes even the region's native cider.
The festival had a strong contingent of familiar artists, in the jazz, rock and electronica vein, but as ever with a visit to an unfamiliar town, great pleasure was to be derived from seeking out unknown indigenous talent. The first such discovery was the Frasques Orchestra, playing on the Sully stage. This 10-piece group possessed an intricately dynamic classically-influenced method, but with a jazz soloing sensibility, featuring violin, flute, clarinets, saxophones, guitar, vibraphone, piano, cello, bass and drums. Three members divided up the compositional duties.
There were two afternoons of old time New Orleans music on the floating stage. Spotting a pair of banjos and a sousaphone listed in the lineup of Les Jazz Potes (from the small town of Mayenne), it was a must-see set. The extreme contrast between the modernist Frasques' performance and this good time, old school clap-along set was rather startling, magnifying the innate properties of both acts.
Back up at the Mix stage, the Swiss electronica artist Dimlite had pulled out of his gig a week previously, leaving the lesser-known Anchorsong to fill the void. This marked the beginning of a semi-unplanned evening of string section fusion, as Masaaki Yoshida was accompanied by violin and cello. Yoshida grew up in Tokyo, but now dwells in London. Besides triggering beats manually on his sample pad, Anchorsong also captured loop matter, and then moved across to a keyboard for some improvisatory responses to his own structures. He fingered drums and built patterns with an astonishing speed and dexterity. The strings should have been higher in the mix to maximize their involvement, but aside from the occasional sparse stretches, the crunching beats and spiraling electro-piano tended to overpower their atmospheric textures. Anchorsong sharply judged the balance between beat flamboyance, abstract noodling, commercial flash and disjointed rupture.
There was time for a quick creep back down the river to Sully, where Enrico Rava's Tribe was packing out the stage area, all seats full, with a standing surround at the edges. As seems to be the case at every gig, the Italian trumpeter's current foil is his young trombonist Gianluca Petrella, who was just launching into an extended solo, mute crunched right up to the microphone, playing so forcefully that he was almost sending the microphone stand hurtling into the audience. It was a visibly physical manifestation of sound, both subtly trimmed and boldly brutal. This energy fed back and forth between Petrella and Rava, as they proceeded to each attain greater soloing transcendence. Petrella now seems to have been given a special billing within Tribe, and rightfully so.
Back up to Mix, for another festival highlight. New Yorker JG Thirlwell has operated a bewilderingly multifarious number of guises over the last 30 years, many of them being variants on his Foetus persona. His most active live outlet in recent times has been Manorexia, a vehicle for compositions that collide classical bite with rock crunch. Thirlwell appears with his laptop, and the heart of the ensemble is always a string quartet. For this French debut, he was joined by the London version of this transatlantic combo. The lineup was completed by keyboardist Tim Parkinson and percussionist Peter Wise, the latter also coming over from NYC.