Aside from the music, the best thing about this album is that its release signals the Potlatch label is alive and well. (Having released four CDs in 2016 and three in 2017, Potlatch released none in 2018, one in 2019, none in 2020.) In addition to this album, 2021 sees the release of a second, a duo album by Pascal Battus and Michel Doneda. Good news.
The music itself comprises two 2018 compositions"Sillons" and "Reflets"by violinist Patricia Bosshard, who was born in Switzerland, studied classical music in Montreal then composition and electroacoustics in Geneva, then jazz in Lausanne. The two pieces are, respectively, played by the 26-member orchestra Onceim (Orchestra des Nouvelles Creations, Experimentations et Improvisations Musicales)which includes such experienced improvisers as Bertrand Denzler, Stéphane Rives and Jean-Sébastien Mariageand by the string ensemble CoÔ; Bosshard plays violin in both. This means that she knew the musicians she was writing for as she had frequently played alongside them. "Sillons" runs for thirty-and-a-half minutes, "Reflets" for eighteen-and-a-half. So, two different pieces for two very different ensembles.
Opening to the sound of slow resounding percussion, "Sillons" evolves steadily without any sudden movements or surprises along the way. The number of players in Onceim ensure that there are enough instruments present to easily fill out the soundscape. To Bosshard's credit, she uses them sparingly and sensibly so that they never sound as if they get in each other's way. Throughout, the heartbeat of the piece is provided by that resounding percussion, with other instruments layered above the pulse. Despite the presence of those improvisers, none of the music here sounds improvised; instead, everything sounds planned, with everyone knowing what they are doing, and all of the component parts combining together into an entrancing whole, one which handsomely repays repeated listening.
Although it is very different to "Sillons," "Reflets" does have its similarities, despite all the instruments being strings. For instance, Bosshard makes good use of the three double basses at her disposal to lay down a solid foundation, with resounding bass sounds recurring throughout. Again, all the players contribute to the totality, with everyone doing their part and no one noticeably dominating. Together, the two tracks make this an album which will stand the test of time and merit frequent listening. Yes, Potlatch is back with a vengeance...