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Henri Roger: Henri Roger: When Bip Bip Sleeps

Eyal Hareuveni By

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How can a free improvised setting, a typical serious musical happening, serious-as-your-life, almost by definition, blend with music associated with fun, such as cartoons soundtracks? Quite naturally if open-minded musicians participate in such happening, ones who disregard such artificial distinctions and like to blur outdated conventions.

French self-taught guitarist and pianist Henri Roger thought about such a mixed happening. He asked vocal artist {[Emile Lesbros}}, cello master Eric Maria Couturier, solo cellist for the noted Ensmble InterContemporain that was founded by iconoclastic composer Pierre Boulez, and acclaimed jazz drummer Bruno Tocanne—now all named as The SéRieuse Cartoon Improvised Music Quartet—to join him for a free improvised session that references the work of American composer Scott Bradley. Bradley wrote music for many beloved cartoons series such as Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery, but he was also known for introducing for what he defined as "funny musdic"—exceptional compositional devices as the twelve-tones concept of composer Arnold Schoenberg, as well as ideas from other modern composers as {[Béla Bartók}} and {[Paul Hindemith}}.

With such influential references it is clear that humor, playfulness and game-like interactions will characterize this happening. But this happening—presented on a vinyl with accompanying disc—is so successful simply because these four musicians regard their humor with utmost seriousness. There are healthy doses of invented sounds, a sense of adventure and taking risks, a unique sense of timing and reflection, as well as a stubborn attempt to frame the immediate interplay in a broad picture. A much bigger, maybe updated and futuristic picture, that on one side references the work of Bradley with irreverent perspective but on the other side refuses completely to root itself in any genre or style, or to attach itself to any articulation.

The ideas are flowing and accumulated, juggled between all four members, toyed for brief seconds and abandoned for newer, shinier ones. Often the busy and noisy musical conversations sound as paying tributes to Butch Morris or early compositional devices of John Zorn. But these conversations sound more as wandering in a long and winding labyrinth of mirrors. The scope of ideas and its immediate exchange, elaboration and fast shaping into other extraterritorial forms of sonic textures save this meeting from falling into any musical clichés.

The interaction on improvisation on "Don't Talk To Me Like That" acknowledges its roots in the dynamic plot of a cartoon series, but does not obey the form of this genre. There are too many detours into sonic alleys, the process of tension building is mocked, the leading players as portrayed by the musicians sound as untamed, ill-mannered players who succumbed joyfully to a deep and colorful psychedelic trip, busy inventing new, proactive forms of expression and to get lost in this tasking process.

There are glimpses of free jazz interactions, mainly when drummer Toccane takes a leading role, as on "Are you Happy?," but most of the time he prefers to color the dense conversations. Vocalist Lesbro's invented language and the virtuous cello playing of Couturier with the invented sound universes of Roger push these wild conversations to different poles. Only on "At The Circus" the busy interplay slows down and this improvisation may sound as part of extreme cinematic adventure, still nuanced and inventive, but with more room for narrative progression.

A wild and highly engaging ride.

Track Listing: LP: Crazy Plane; Blip Blap Flup Blop; Don't Talk To Me Like That; Emergency. CD: Cats And Dogs; Follow That Horse; When Bip Bip Sleeps; Are You Happy? At The Circus; Running In The Jungle.

Personnel: Eric-Maria Couturier: cello; Emilie Lesbros: vocals, effects; Henri Roger: piano guitar, percussion, laptop; Bruno Tocanne: drums.

Title: Henri Roger: When Bip Bip Sleeps | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Instant Musics Records


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