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Leila Bordreuil & Michael Foster: The Caustic Ballads

Glenn Astarita By

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On the surface, the album title might be an oxymoron. None of these free-form works resemble traditional ballads, but the young Brooklyn-based duo's ideology and vision is clearly distinct and personalized via these jaunts that to some extent, parallel the British free jazz scene with acidic, creaky and scorching elaborations. There is a consortium of zany nouveau classical music breakouts with bizarre episodic transgressions that tend to hold your attention. At times, the acoustic instrumental implementations sound like electronics are being used, although no reference to synths or live electronics are noted in the CD jacket.

Saxophonist Michael Foster (Andrew Barker Trio, Psychic TV...) and French cellist Leila Bourdreuil (Peter Evans, Anthony Coleman...) have been making the rounds within the New York artistic scene, performing with improvised jazz units amid affiliations with cross-genre ensembles. Nonetheless, this is a resourceful duo. Here, the artists project turmoil, angst and other emotive attributes that often segue into quieter dialogues, and ascensions back into periods of hyper-mode plaintive cries. Interestingly enough, the musicians convert many of these improvisations into low-key, subterranean like sojourns, evidenced on the title track and elsewhere. Thankfully, they don't abide by a staid approach on a per-track basis.

The duo fiendishly raises the pitch and blastoff into parts unknown while ending up back to where they started from. The musicians also use their instruments as percussive vehicles, adding another intriguing perspective to these bulging and darting mini-themes and spur of the moment shifts in strategy. And on "Wherever the Organism Discharges its Internal Rottenness," Foster's gravelly notes are embedded in a torrential downpour, augmented by Bourdreuil's ferocious arco exercises that morph imagery of bedlam or social chaos. However, the musicians take you to another dimension by diving into moments of solace and tranquility. Yet "SpitPig" is designed with subliminal, low-register noise-shaping parts and extended notes, which is quite passive compared to the other works. In sum, the duo chronicles a high-impact, in-your-face and off-the-charts proposition that agitates the mind's eye for all the right reasons.

Track Listing: Born Of Its Own Asphyxiation; Pleasure And Cruelty; Intimate Shrinkage Of My Body And The Castration Of My Life; Caustic Ballads; Criminal Caresses I; Into The Peristyle Of Love’s Temple; Wherever The Organism Discharges Its Internal Rottenness; Your Strokes, My Shivers; Criminal Caresses II; Gimp; Throb; SpitPig; The Whip And The Body.

Personnel: Leila Bourdreuil: cello; Michael Foster: saxophone.

Title: The Caustic Ballads | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Relative Pitch Records

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