Although she has been composing for over thirty-five years, Pascale Criton is surprisingly underrepresented on disc. In fact, Infra is only her second album release, following the rarely-seen Territoires Imperceptibles (Assai, 2003), a fact which makes this release particularly welcome. In her compositions, Criton has often used tunings with intervals so small that they have tended towards a continuum. Having used quarter tones and twelfth tones in the past, on Infra her compositions employ sixteenth tone intervals that she has frequently used before. Such intervals are barely perceptible to the ears of most of us, which leads to music that evolves subtly and smoothly without any shocks in store.
The music here is all played by members of Ensemble Dedalus, themselves no strangers to Potlatch, having previously featured on the albums Dedalus (Potlatch, 2013) and Distances Ouïes Dites (Potlatch, 2016). The music consists of the four-part suite "Bothsways," performed by the well-established pairing of violinist Silvia Tarozzi and cellist Deborah Walker, followed by two pieces"Process" and "Steppings"---on which they are joined by guitarist Didier Aschour, trombonist Thierry Madiot and flautist Amélie Berson, before the extended solo cello piece "Chaoscaccia." Although the entire album runs for less than forty-one minutes, its music contains sufficient detail and drama to be captivating throughout and to ensure the listener is drawn back to it again and again.
The four parts of "Bothsways" are all briefjust over the two-minutes eachbut their back-and-forth exchanges between violin and cello make it obvious that Tarozzi and Walker know each other's playing well, having first met in 2003, and know Criton's music too, having worked with her since 2008. Together the three have created a soundscape which is full, rich in detail and enthralling throughout. The two quintet tracks are each rather longer than the parts of the duo suite. The five contrasting instruments combine in ways that frequently make it difficult to identify them individually, the whole being a multi-layered collage from which single sounds occasionally bubble to the surface before subsiding again; the total effect is stunning.
The album's closer is its longest track, at seventeen minutes, and its best, the solo cello piece being jointly credited to Criton and Walker. The cellist gives a bravura performance in which she puts her instrument through its paces, amply demonstrating its subtlety and range. As with the rest of the album, it leaves one longing to see the piece performed in concert. Based on this album, we must hope that there is not another extended wait until the appearance of the next album featuring Criton.
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