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Insubordinations celebrates Swiss-Portuguese connections

John Eyles By

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Since its inaugural release in 2006, the Swiss Insubordinations label and net label has issued over sixty albums, dedicated to improvised and/or electroacoustic music, as free-of-charge downloads and as limited editions on CD or CDr. Refreshingly, all Insubordinations releases remain fully downloadable under creative commons license.

If that were not enough, Insubordinations is also an association that organises concerts, and co-ordinates the Insub Meta Orchestra (IMO), an ensemble of thirty-five or more improvisers gathered from Switzerland and beyond. Formed in 2010, IMO has had two albums—Archive #1 and Archive #2—issued on the label. Commendably, the ensemble says of itself, "IMO tends to a way of working where instruments lose their classical function—and sound—to become abstract-sounding objects, establishing a non-hierarchical relation between them."

As well as those within Switzerland, Insubordinations has developed links across Europe, as illustrated by releases such as Zerno by the Russian trio Wooden Plants or The Fire Throws by Berlin-based wind trio Trigger Alpert. Two of the label's most recent releases focus particularly on its connections with the Portuguese guitarist Abdul Moimeme...

Abdul Moimême

Mekhaanu— La Forêt des Mécanismes Sauvages

Insubordinations Netlabel


Studio-recorded in August 2011, in the guitarist's home city of Lisbon, Mekhaanu—La Forêt des Mécanismes Sauvages, features Moimême improvising using his own set-up of amplified and prepared guitars. With several past releases on the Portuguese Creative Sources label, he has mainly collaborated with his Portuguese countrymen, the most notable exception being his 2010 recording with Diatribe. The obvious precursor to Mekhaanu—La Forêt des Mécanismes Sauvages is his previous solo recording Nekhephthu (Creative Sources, 2008.)

Moimême plays two prepared guitars simultaneously, eschewing the use of pedals, loops or overdubs; the only electronics he employs are for the purpose of amplification. So, anything that sounds as if were produced using "effects" actually originates from resonances of the instruments or the objects used to prepare them. Given Moimême's use of preparations such as attached springs, metallic bars and plates, he has inevitably been compared to Keith Rowe who pioneered the use of such preparations with guitar. However, such comparisons are not supported by the actual music produced by Moimême, which features the trademark sounds of electric guitars far more than Rowe's, which has progressively diverged from the sound of a real guitar. To be fair to both musicians, it is probably best to describe Moimême as a post-Rowe guitarist.

Moimême generates an impressively broad spectrum of sounds from his instruments and is adept at using the two guitars to produce contrasting sounds which complement one another well, repeatedly creating the impression that two separate guitarists are interacting and trading phrases. Typically, he pairs sounds which differ radically in pitch or tone, such as high-pitched feedback set off against a low-end rumble. The end result is invariably an appealingly deep soundscape with plenty of detail which makes for stimulating and dramatic listening.


Eye of Newt

Insubordinations Netlabel


The Swiss duo Diatribes consists of laptoppist D'incise (the alias of Laurent Peter) and percussionist Cyril Bondi. Both are key members of IMO and, as a duo, they have collaborated with many players including Jacques Demierre, Barry Guy and Jason Kahn (see YouTube below). Their 2010 collaboration with Moimême, Complaintes De Marée Basse was released on Insubordinations, credited to Diatribe & Abdul Moimême, but that trio is now called Queixas and Eye of Newt is their first album under that name.

As a threesome, Queixas definitely leans more towards electroacoustic improvisation, favouring pieces which evolve slowly and deliberately which often gives them a drone-like quality. The contributions of the three members fit together seamlessly, occasionally making it impossible to attribute a particular sound to one of the players. So, the high-pitched metallic ringing sound that appears towards the middle of "Stow the Croze" could emanate from one of Moimême's guitars (it is similar to sounds heard on his solo recording), or from the resonation of a scraped cymbal or from the laptop which, as we know, can imitate practically anything...

The beauty of Eye of Newt is that such considerations are ultimately irrelevant because the totality is of far greater importance than the contribution of any of the musicians. Paradoxically, the music can be unobtrusive enough to provide satisfying background or ambient sounds that are "just there" but it also contains sufficient complexity and detail to make fascinating listening when it becomes the focus of attention.

Tracks and Personnel

Mekhaanu—La Forêt des Mécanismes Sauvages

Tracks: Mécanisme Γ; Mécanisme Δ; Mécanisme Θ; Mécanisme Π; Mécanisme Σ; Qu'ils appellant Saturne; Atmosphère Mécaniques.

Personnel: Abdul Moimême: Fender Stratocaster and self-made solid body electric guitar, both amplified separately and prepared with small and large objects; prepared Gibson Les Paul and Rickenbacker lap guitar inside a grand piano (2).

Eye of Newt

Tracks: An yll wynde that blowth no man to good; Stow the croze; Everybody out.

Personnel: Abdul Moimême: two prepared guitars, objects; Cyril Bondi: floortom, objects; D'incise: laptop, objects.


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