Hyazo v Levitas

Monday 17 August 2020

Just had a couple of weeks off, going nowhere, of course. Listening to this 2020 release hyazo by Cyril Bondi, Pierre-Yves Martel and Christoph Schiller, the same trio who have us tse a few years back and the brilliant awirë with Angharad Davies in 2019. The three pieces on hyazo are a purportedly different proposition from those previous albums, with each of the pieces here a more controlled composition – two by Schiller, one by Bondi – than an improvisation. The ensemble is much the same as before, with Bondi on harmonium, Martel on viola da gamba, and Schiller on spinet, with the usual additional of pitch pipes. While tse and awirë made use of compositional restrictions on their improvisations, hyazo shifts the balance and allows improvisation within a more encompassing compositional conceit. Where tse and awirë built their improvisations out of limited pitch gamuts, hyazo‘s three pieces use entire, pre-existing music as a reference point: Bondi’s title track is based on a saxophone solo, while Schiller’s Palestrina is self-explanatory. Perhaps the more elaborate structure has cramped the musicians’ style a little too much, perhaps their instrumentation and style is so distinctive… For whatever reason, while hyazo has that same impersonal beauty as their previous work, it’s hard to distinguish these three pieces from them, or indeed from each other.

A couple of weeks later, Bondi released another, larger piece, this time in conjunction with his regular collaborator d’incise. Levitas (Lane, De Asís, Mécanique, Majkowski, Garin) is another group effort that had me worried I was in for more of the same, again. Wrong, wrong. No explanatory notes are given here, but it seems that Bondi and d’incise are the composers but (supposedly) do not play here. The five piece electroacoustic ensemble are listed in the title and includes Rebecca Lane on bass flute and Clara de Asís on electric guitar, with other musicians I’m not familiar with. The true identity of Golem Mécanique, credited with “voice, tapes, electronic”, remains a mystery. The music itself is equally mysterious, falling into sections and episodes that betray the initial impression of a monolithic exercise in the minimal. Various poses and and attitudes are taken up, toyed with and discarded in a seemingly capricious way, with a solemn playfulness that keeps you guessing to the end, wondering if equilibium will be restored if the whole thing is going to blow up. It’s refreshing to hear something this imaginative, with some searching musicianship, permanently incongruous.