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Match&Fuse Dublin 2017

Ian Patterson By

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The trio's uninterrupted half-hour improvisation unfolded like a conceptual suite, with great contrasts within the evolving textural and emotional landscapes. Electronic soundscaping and real-time sampling meant that at times, with or without eyes shut, the provenance of the experimental sounds wasn't always clear. What was clear, however, was the powerful overall effect.

Cassiers' electronically modified vocalizations covered wide stylistic terrain, from hauntingly nebulous to gothic horror cries, while her use of found objects—a rattle, mini gong, glasses, thumb cymbals, plastic bag etc) conjured sounds comfortingly familiar within the predominantly abstract sonic terrain. Holsen's trumpet sampling was often close to in quality to a wordless human voice, which created the effect, at times, of a ghostly dialog with Cassiers.

Desprez's highly percussive guitar soundings ranged from quiet croaking and bell-like chime to riffing waves like a desert storm. In a stirring climax, all three musicians converged as one in an enveloping wall of sound—a supersonic drone— that gradually diminished, as if by design, to reveal once again its component parts.

Afterwards, the three musicians explained this group's approach to collaborative music-making. "On the first day we played to meet each other and then during the week we did some exercises in length," said Cassiers. Desprez picked up the thread: "It was kind of like a set list, but of minutes. We decided the duration, the shape in a way, but not the content," expanded the guitarist. "We also played for fifteen minutes on only one idea," added Holsen, "just to see what we could do with that."

The third and final group brought together Heidi Heidelberg (UK, voice/guitar); Maxime Delporte (France, bass); Brendan Doherty (Ireland, drums); Nils Fischer (Switzerland/Germany, clarinet/saxophone); and Sam Comerford (Ireland, saxophone).

Of the three groups, this final one proved to be arguably the most harmonious—when wordless vocals, saxophone and bass clarinet struck sweet spots—and the most outré, with the magnetic Heidelberg's wholly improvised passages oscillating between operatic high-wire and Beckett-esque darkness of the soul.

Extremes in dynamics embraced, at one end, tip-toeing rustlings, where bass and drums were felt rather than heard, and, at the other end, explosive collective outbursts of punkish energy. In between, there were moments of choral-like synergy, free-jazz rumblings, passages of curiously rhythmic abstraction and, in turn, of gentle lyricism.

But this was essentially a restless beast, and from the moment Heidelberg picked up her electric guitar and began sculpting jagged, Crimson-esque funk, the music took on a new energy. The ensemble became increasingly industrious- -and more closely attuned—as the music reached its most hedonistic and visceral, culminating in a thrilling unison crescendo.

Afterwards Heidelberg shed light on the piece's structure by highlighting cues—a melody or rhythmic motif—that steered the band from one segment of the improvisation to another. For Heidelberg, as for all the participating musicians, the four days had been challenging but rewarding. "It's been really intense, but in a very positive way, "she enthused. "Totally inspiring."

An emotional Jacobson dedicated this edition of Match&Fuse to the memory of Eirik Tofte, who passed away in 2013. Founder of record label Va Fongool and promoter, Tofte was the Norwegian Match&Fuse co-producer, overseeing a number of successful Norwegian tours in addition to running Match&Fuse Oslo 2013.

Jacobson also heaped praise on the twelve musicians who made Match&Fuse Dublin 2017 such a success. "They're an amazing bunch of people. They didn't really know each other at all so they've taken a real leap of faith coming here. Hopefully it will go on from here."

Arguably, it was also a leap of faith for the audience to take a chance, not just on unknown bands, but on improvising bands that hadn't even existed four days earlier. Then again, in its short life to date brand Match&Fuse has earned a reputation as one of the more exciting contemporary European musical endeavours -a courageous alternative to the staid, the formulaic and the prefabricated.

In bringing different nationalities together to play largely genre-defying improvised music across Europe, Match&Fuse makes a passionate and very timely case for the notions of strength in diversity and of all pulling together for the common good.

Match&Fuse is already something of a moveable feast so it could well be that varying formats promoting both composed music and improvised music, or established bands as well as pop-up bands, may become the norm. Whatever lies ahead for Match&Fuse, however, the twelve musicians of Match&Fuse Dublin 2017, in seeking and working towards a common language, have just raised the bar.

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