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Sylvain Rifflet: Alphabet

Dan Bilawsky By

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Sylvain Rifflet: Alphabet While most people think of the alphabet as a collection of letters which act as the building blocks for words, Sylvain Rifflet probably isn't one of them. The French reed multi-instrumentalist seems to subscribe to the broader definition, which states that an alphabet is really "the basic elements in a system which combine to form complex entities." His Alphabet presents an ensemble using electronics, sound manipulation, minimalism, classical ideals, film score suggestions, trance music—and, yes, jazz—as the "basic elements" that lead to the "complex entities" that are his compositions.

Rifflet's pieces can best be viewed as hypnotic sound collages for quartet. While no two numbers sound the same, Rifflet does revel in the opportunity to create balance between change and consistency throughout. This can be heard immediately in the balance between flautist Jocelyn Mienniel's soloing and the backing parts on "Hyper Imaginative JuKe (Box) (Part 1)," but it's also noticeable throughout, with percussionist/drummer Benjamin Flament's steady work countering other elements at play. The relationship between Rifflet and Mienniel is also a key to the success of the music, with both musicians often dovetailing with, and playing off of, one another.

While it takes a track or two to acclimate to Rifflet's world, it proves to be a wonderful place to visit once the ear has made its adjustment. "To Z" has a slow, steady churn to it, "® and Silence" is a trippy journey launched with breathing-based beat boxing, "À l'heure" starts out with percussive metal clanging and arrives at a pleasant, pastoral woodwind scene and "CD (part 1)" features some stellar, biting guitar work from Philippe Gordiani, who usually prefers to blend into the mix. As the album nears its end, the music becomes even more interesting. "CD (part 2)" thrives on arpeggiated drama, like some sort of long lost sketch from Philip Glass' "Heroes Symphony," and the album-ending "Vowels, Kids & Balloons" comes off like Industrial Indo-Irish music, if such a thing exists.

While the album loses focus in a couple of places ("Q" and "A+B"), the majority of the music is riveting and wholly inventive. The sonic sculptures on Alphabet mark Rifflet as a creative force with a limitless imagination.


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.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced


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