Although the group moniker might suggest two bull fiddles, in fact it describes the French pairing of bassist Benjamin Duboc and contrabass clarinetist Jean-Luc Petit. No strangers to each other (Petit appears on the bassist's leadership debut under his own name on Primare Cantus (Ayler, 2011)), they nonetheless pile up the challenges for themselves: no charts; restricted palette; exposed situation; and difficult instrumentation, especially the unwieldy woodwind. The two lengthy spontaneous inventions were recorded in the pre-Romanesque chapel of Saint Martin in the small town of Bignac.
As a consequence of the heavy emphasis on the bottom end, the resonance and overtones from the medieval performance space must have been a particularly compelling experience in concert, but that doesn't necessarily translate to disc. On contrabass clarinet, Petit grumbles, chunters, drones, and expounds long tones, enlivened by occasional multiphonics, and vocalized cries. On bass Duboc is given to sudden outbreaks of animated sawing, but also employs his voice to intone, shout, and exclaim on "Craftsmen I," as if acknowledging that the narrow soundworld might welcome increased variation. Some of the odd indeterminate sounds most likely also originate with the bassist.
While such a focused recital must require great concentration to play, it also requires great effort to listen to. Rather than continuous narrative, the two principals proceed in unexpected bursts between quieter episodes, as if taking stock of where to go next. "Craftsmen I" starts gently, but gradually swells with judicious use of harmonics from both men. In its ponderous movement it evokes images of two behemoths roaming the plains. Keypads patter and lips pucker to begin "Craftsmen II" which moves forward in a sequence of furtive noises and edgy more broken sounds. Matters heat up towards the end but they are at their most engaging when involved in faster paced conversational dialogue, as towards end of "Craftsmen I" and the middle of "Craftsmen II," which makes for simultaneous tension and release.
Craftsmen I; Craftsmen II.
Benjamin Duboc: double bass; Jean-Luc Petit: contrabass clarinet.
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