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Didier Lasserre - Silence was pleased

Marc Medwin, The Squid's Ear


Percussionist Didier Lasserre presents us with an album-length composition, and what a composition it is! If the Wandelweiser aesthetic has made its way into the mainstream, this is surely a manifestation, at least in some very important respects. Much of the disc, including its title, is governed by silence, or is it better to say that silence provides the narrative frame? Even a relatively boisterous section, like "Apparent Queen, Peerless Light," has silence under the hood, so to speak, in the form of space. The timpani loaf and growl into life, their overtones readily apparent, but never at the expense of expansiveness. Even when Lasserre brings the cymbals in, they never seen to irradicate the silence at the music's heart, more apparent as another reverent hush ensues.

Even better are the points of reference the music continually brings to mind. That same movement has a wonderful trumpet solo from Jean-Luc Cappozzo, one that ebbs and flows as shades of Miles Davis and Bill Dixon stand to attention. Indeed, Dixon's own compositions are evoked regularly throughout the disc, but just after the trumpet solo, Christine Wodrascka brings us strolling out onto subdued landscapes dialectically shared by Lowell Davidson and Morton Feldman.

The electronic transition into the final track is both elusive and quietly visceral. It draws attention to the piece as a whole, reflecting it in a dazzling microcosmic moment. Dig the disc's opening moments, with Denis Cointe's "live tinnitus sounds" in tandem with other nameless sonic objects in full-boar crescendo. Similarly rich and somehow restrained are Laurent Cerciat's voice, delivering the titular poetry, and Gael Mevel, whose harmonic-drenched swells and expertly placed pizzicati infuse the appropriately named "Silence Accompanied."

Beyond the wonderful playing, the fine recording and the fascinating exercise of wondering just what was improvised, beyond the various chamber-music textures and subgroupings, there is the mystery. It sets the composition apart from so many, and it could very well be the unifying factor, the reason behind everything else. Sustains are the symptom, silence is the backdrop, but the mystery at the core of this music simply needs to be experienced as contrast defines and redefines each gesture hanging over the void. It would be imprudent to say another word.