Valentin Clastrier / Steven Kamperman Fabuloiseries
Review by Erik Keilholtz
The hurdy-gurdy is already known for its unusual timbres, sometimes sounding something like a hybrid between a bagpipe and a fiddle. When it is turned into an electro-acoustic instrument in the hands of Valentin Clastrier, it flies into rather distant territory. Chorusing and other electronic manipulations bring the sound from a glorious psychedelic explosion one moment, as heard on the introductory track, "Et la roue de la vie" to a delicate obligato for Kamperman's superb reed work on "Paradisdesrats" from "Fabulo 2" .
"Et la roue de la vie"
The 14-track album is divided into five Fabulae, ranging between two and five tracks each, plus an introduction track. Although the tracks have suggestive titles, and definitely create strong moods, no program is offered, allowing the listener to create his own narrative while each of the fabulae unfolds.
While the album is a great listen, the overall unity might erase the formal sense of completeness of each of the fabulae (in other words, the listener might not know where one ends and the next begins without recourse to the liner notes). This is not necessarily bad, but a bit more of a pause between one fabula and another might help the listener hear the relationships between the tracks on the same fabula better.
The musicianship of both Clastrier and Kamperman is outstanding. On Fabuloiseries, the two exhibit mastery over the whole range of their respective instruments, matched by the solid compositional chops that provide the framework for their playing. The music demands that the duo listen to one another closely, and it is clear from their tightly intertwined melodies and their precise unison work that they do so. At some moments, such as track eleven "Orphiques" from Fabula 4, the clarinet seems to bubble out of the texture created by Clastrier's hurdy gurdy.
Stylistically, Fabuloiseries is all over the map, from"Etherique", which is reminiscent of contemporary Scandinavian jazz, with its austere settings and clear phrasing, to the almost Harry Partch-like hocketing of "Bucolique". Sometimes the music has a strong pulse, as it does in track eight, "Cyclotonique" and sometimes it drifts through sonic clouds as it does on the closing "Rouages". However, at no point does the album seem disjointed or unfocused. Even the nearly New Orleans jazz sound of Kamperman's clarinet on track twelve, "Tous va bien" sounds fitting, even though it is the only such example on the album.
My only real gripe with the record is the packaging. There are no liner notes to speak of, simply a track listing and some credits behind the transparent CD tray. The music does speak for itself, quite eloquently, in fact, but the folks at homerecords have to realize that their primary market is going to be disproportionately filled with music nerds (who else buys European CD's featuring hurdy gurdy?), and we love excessive technical details. - Erik Keilholtz