The relationship between electronics and acoustic instruments has evolved since Miles Davis' groundbreaking Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969), with artists continuing to manipulate technologies within their current environments. These lines are becoming increasingly blurred on recordings such as Opsvik and Jennings' A Dream I Used To Remember (Loyal Label, 2009) and Humcrush's Rest at Worlds End (Rune Grammofon, 2008).
Further proof of this techno-improv pandemic is witnessed in Stade's Freewheel, yet another brilliantly creative duo featuring keyboardist Pierre Audetat and drummer Christophe Calpini.
The duo creates infectious melodic sound-canvasses; industrial strength concoctions of music, rhythm, and noise with real and sampled sounds. Its meticulous compositions incorporate live manipulations with free-styling like hip-hop DJ turntablists. But the surprise here is how the duo interacts with three special guests who are no strangers to the edge: French trumpeter Erik Truffaz, Swiss harmonica master Gregoire Maret and New York guitarist Elliott Sharp.
The fifteen tracks alternate between Stade and each of the guestsstarting with the ambient vibe of "Introscape," with its steady drum back-beat, static white noise, frosty keyboards and Truffaz's hushed trumpet mutations. Next is the copacetic "Sonatune," with Maret's harmonica floating against the airy backdrop as Stade improvises on the theme with gentle drumming and keyboards. On "Bats in the Car" the earth-quaking bass throbs with incessant syncopation as Sharpe's guitar twists, shouts and twangs a tune that might suggest a punk rebellion against noise control.
The guitar and trumpet, whether amplified or processed, would seem more natural foils for these electronic adventures, but it's Maret's unplugged axe that provides the more interesting texture, as his earthy harmonica fits comfortably with the processed sounds on tracks like "Retired Kinky Ballerines," where Stade lays down heavy hypnotic techno-dance rhythms.
The consistent bond in this pulsating machine is the minimalist ingenuity of Stade's musictaking simple melodies and ostinato patterns and injecting them with variety and attitude. "Black Parrot Arising"'s killer dance moves and its ultimate demise in "My Parrot Entombment" shows Stade's humor and flexibility in keeping the music fresh, making Freewheel a totally hip ride.
Track Listing: Introscape; Sonatine; Triceratops at Work; Bats In the Car; Black
Parrot Arising; Stac eaux limpides; Freewheel; Midnight Summer
Volcano; Retired Kinky Ballerines; West Virginia (Remix); Innercoast
Whispers; My Parrot Entombment; Pluton Alltimes Hit;
Horologi Forcasts; Echolalies.