FORMANEX "'Treatise'- Cornelius Cardew / Live in Extrapool" CD Fibrr Records (France) 2001

Formanex is a quartet of improvisers from France (I think from the city of Nantes): Christophe Havard, Anthony Taillard, Emmanuel Leduc, and Julien Ottavi. They work with electronics, percussion, guitar and bass, amplified objects, and saxophone, but more importantly they build up their works from very small elements of sound, isolated, amplified, and repeated. They are inspired by Britain's AMM (Ottavi and Havard appeared on Fibrr's first release with Keith Rowe from AMM). This album documents a performance in the Netherlands which was based on graphic scores from Cornelius Cardew's "Treatise". The best two cuts on the CD are the shortest and the longest ones. The shortest piece, at 5 minutes plus, has an immediacy that seems to capture direct reactions to visual features of the graphic score. One of the challenges with using a graphic score for improvisation is that the immediate reactions to the visual characteristics of the score may in a longer piece feel simply strung together. Some of longer pieces on this disc did not have the level of the urgency, tension, intensity, and focus I look for in improvised music. That being said, the longest piece runs for 24 minutes and has a really strong drive and coherence. This is achieved largely by sustaining steady, insistent pulses through long stretches, shifting the sounds in and around the pulse as it moves forward, and then interrupting those passages to allow a pulse to be reestablished on different sonic terms. The sounds themselves are often industrial and ominous. The total texture is complicated, with lots of soft, sometimes practically inaudible sounds, mixed around and behind the foreground sounds. Formanex also gets great results from amplifying faint sounds, such as the sound of air blown through a saxophone too weakly to resonate the reed in standard terms. Zeroing in on and turning up small sounds brings out the structure and complexity of those noises. This disc does a really nice job of examining sound. HZ MAGAZINE