Léandre/Houle/Strid - Last Seen Headed

Stuart Broomer, MusicWorks

Few musicians in the international improvising community can find as many varied settings with which to create an everexpanding musical language as can French bassist Joëlle Léandre. She appears here as part of a trio with Vancouver-based clarinettist François Houle and Swedish percussionist Raymond Strid. The group’s distinguishing compositional quality is its linearity, an ability to construct flowing music that’s simultaneously engaging in both its individual components and as a collective whole. The group’s sound is varied, sometimes mimicking the timbres and pitches of assorted world musics, with Houle summoning the sound of a middle- Eastern double-pipe arghul on Last Seen Headed I, and achieving a flute-like sonority on the far-Eastern Last Seen Headed II. Freely moving among techniques, Léandre provides propulsive arco ostinatos and sliding pizzicato, at times adding percussive bow work that combines effectively with Strid’s alternately random and insistent drum beats. There’s a liberating force to Last Seen Headed V, propelled by Léandre’s insistent vocal line, a weirdly engaging mixture of indecipherable sounds that seems to combine musical vocalizing with unconscious mutterings, and which finally turns into wordless song in company with Houle’s plaintive clarinet, Strid’s anticipatory military drumming, and her own bowed harmonics. The cumulative effect is electrifying.