Un concept (la science des traces)Un disque peut parfois révéler un monde : celui de Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour et Pascal Battus méritait qu’on l’entende. Aidé d’un manuel d’ichnologie (l’art de tirer des conclusions scientifiques des traces laissées par tout être vivant derrière lui), qui décidera de s’y pencher trouvera en Ichnites bien plus que de simples empreintes : les preuves de l’existence d’un microcosme en développement.

Ce microcosme à la structure improvisée, mais cohérente, est l’oeuvre d’une saxophoniste réfléchie et d’un guitariste ayant développé des techniques étendues, au point de jouer ici de “surfaces rotatives” confectionnées avec d’anciens éléments de Walkman – l’ancêtre du baladeur MP3 étant une autre ichnite de taille. Ce microcosme vous attire en usant des charmes des premiers sons qu’il laisse échapper et vous enferme ensuite dans des constructions au sein desquelles s’engouffrent le vent et l’eau, et où le bruit commandé par le plus petit geste est répercuté, toujours à volume amplifié.

Mais le voyage n’est pas seulement agressif, il guide parfois l’invité jusqu’à des plages circonspectes, qu’elles soient jardin zen ou salle d’attente, avant de le mener sur une esplanade où Christine Sehnaoui Abdlenour et Pascal Battus sonneront l’heure d’un carnaval de sifflements et de tremblements expressifs. Aussi abstraites soient-elles, les découvertes faites par l’auditeur dans ce paysage parsemé d’empreintes sont irrévocables : les mondes parallèles existent, et il est même possible de les explorer en musique.








The combination of the mechanical and the manual overlay this improvisational duo from Lebanese-born alto saxophonist Christine Shenaoui Abdelnour and Pascal Battus. Battus plays, manipulates, or perhaps sets in motion rotating surfaces, explained in the liner notes as, "small, motorized components from inside old Walkmans, used as exciters on different objects reacting as vibrators and resonators: sheets of paper, cardboards, plastic, wooden, metal, polystyrene pieces, and stems connected to cymbals."

Certainly, the swing isn't the thing here. The sounds are all about texture and the weave of the electric with the breath. Shenaoui Abdelnour's designs are fixed upon extended saxophone technique; flutter, breath and pitch are her tools. The pair achieve an improvising harmony between the various frequency and tones Battus generates with his small motors that work upon varying flotsam.

The music—the sound—bristles and pops with electricity. The pair achieve a sort of visual and tactile response from their sound generation. Their hum and pop roots out a visceral answer, that raises the awareness in sort of 3-dimensional experience.



Guillaume Tarche © Le son du grisli



Sous un titre judicieux, ce recueil « d’empreintes » posées en mai 2009 développe, en cinq chapitres (eux en revanche alourdis d’intitulés descriptifs), tout un art de la gravure en taille-douce : pointe sèche, eau-forte, Pascal Battus (surfaces rotatives) et Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour (saxophone alto) dressent de petits manèges éoliens, bruts – on pense à celui de Petit Pierre, à la Fabuloserie– et très savamment sophistiqués.

Si le premier, sur ses plateaux (pas des platines ! plutôt les tours de quelque potier sonique), façonne matériaux hétéroclites et espaces auditifs, la seconde emporte (au-delà de la rhétorique salivaire désormais établie) son alto concret, fluide, flûté dans des contrées que ni Denley ni Bosetti n’ont épuisées. Tout « étendus » qu’ils soient, les moyens convoqués sont mis en jeu dans une pratique serrée, douce ou corrosive, toujours intense et élégante, souvent poétique. Sans doute est-ce ce qui fait de ce disque un précieux jardin portatif, que l’on garde près de soi.






On Ichnites (POTLATCH P110), we hear improvised sax noises and non-musical grinderments emanating from motorised rotating surfaces – always a winning combination in anyone’s book. Lebanese-born Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour sucks unearthly, gritty whimperings from her alto sax, playing with such weightless grace that you can believe her hands never once made contact with brass. Pascal Battus plucks out motors from old portable cassette players, then rubs them whirlingly against common objects made of paper, wood or plastic, creating tones that make you think all the inanimate objects in the world are spending their time whining and complaining, if only we could hear them. Now we can.







Lebanese born, but now living in France is alto-saxophone player Christine Shenaoui Abdelnour, who has a background in improvisation, which she plays in all sorts of ways, some of which may be like intended by Aldophe. She works here with Pascal Battus, who usually works with table-top guitars, but here plays 'rotating surfaces': "small motorised components from inside old walkmans, used as exciters on different objects reacting as vibrators and resonators: sheets of paper, cardboards, plastic, wooden, metal or polystyrene pieces, and stems connected to cymbals". They played together on may 26th 2009 and the results can be found on 'Ichnites'. This is some hardcore improvised music, and not necessarily from a softer edge. Things buzz at times at an immense volume, for instance in 'Fouilles & Rongement'. Its followed by a more quieter excursion, 'Estocade & Coulees'. These two play some mighty intense music, which requires one full attention. Its not easy music, but one that makes your hair rise up the wrong way. An utter fine work of improvisation. Very intense, very beautiful. (FdW)






So I was so caught up in my new job role this morning that I forgot to post an April 1st message. I must be slipping. I was home at eight tonight, which made a great change, but still its now half ten and I’m only just sitting down to write. To be honest I couldn’t write earlier because I hadn’t listened to any music today, so have just had two runs through one of the CDs I spent some time with last week. My selection of this evening’s album in particular; Icnites the new release on Potlatch by Pascal Battus and Chistine Sehnaoui Abdelnour was greatly assisted by the wise one with things coming out of his bottom. Don’t these little intros get more surreal by the day? ;)

I’m on record as saying, probably more than once that Potlatch is, in my opinion the most consistently strong label around today. These days Jacques Oger probably only manages a couple of discs a year (I know the feeling) but they are just about always really strong, even when the musicians involved are not that well known to me, last years Narthex release being a good example. I know the music of Battus and Sehnaoui Abdelnour quite well though, and should declare an interest here in that I have recently agreed to release a CD involving Pascal. Ichnites is, for all essential purposes a straight up improv record, and a pretty good one at that. Battus plays “rotating surfaces” a form of instrumentation he goes on in the liner notes to explain involves small motorised components rescued from the insides of old Walkmen used to excite assorted surfaces. Sehnaoui Abdelnour makes life much easier by just playing alto sax. However it is inevitable and doubtlessly predictable for me to say that despite their perceived differences it is in places hard to tell the two sets of instrumentation apart. There are five tracks here, the first four all weighing in at roughly ten minutes in length, the last, titled voies & allures (ways and paces?) lasting half of that.

I say that this is a straight up improv record because from start to finish it documents an alive, often quite fiery musical conversation between these two musicians that places them as tussling, wrestling equals wrapping their sounds around each other to form the meaty, gristly mixture we have here. For the most part Sehnaoui Abdelnour plays her sax in the normal manner, blowing over the reeds, often with a low noteless warble, but nevertheless without an extreme amount of extended technique. She does bring her tones and whispers to match the general area of Battus’ agitated surfaces quickly and easily, though it should also be noted that in places Battus does the same, finding pitches to match the sax, thus revealing a remarkable amount of understanding of what must be a reasonably erratic way of creating sounds.  There aren’t many silences, but then this isn’t full-on gabbification either. There is a great sensitivity to the playing that reveals two good sets of ears. The way these two musicians listen to one another is very impressive here. Generally a sound will be made by one or the other, after which there will be a slight pause and then the response comes, more often than not perfectly chosen and placed. The sounds here are all very nice, texturally interesting enough, but in truth the real joy in the music comes from following the conversation. In many ways it wouldn’t matter if this was a duo for prepared triangle and amplified tambourine, what works is the connection and occasional willful disconnection between the musicians, the dialogue, the discourse.

So what makes this release stand out from all the other great improvised music CDs? Well maybe nothing really, there is nothing I can say about this music other than underlining the great pleasure I get from following its narrative, and sharing in some small way in the conversation between the musicians. Interesting, engaging music is not always enjoyable music, sometimes the good recordings are also a challenge to our sense of what is pleasant to listen to, but here this is not the case. Ichnites keeps Potlatch’s record going, being a thoroughly engaging record that lasts forty minutes or so but feels like nearer fifteen, such is the ease in which I lose myself in it. Despite the use of 50% unusual instrumentation there are no rules being rewritten here, but that isn’t always necessary. Two musicians get together and find ways to work together. If we can’t be there at the time then a recording of the event is the next best thing. When the end result portrays that collaboration as well as Ichnites does we are onto a winner. Great cover too.







Munis d’outils aussi différents qu’ils se révèlent complémentaires, deux investigateurs du son à l’oreille aiguisée s’improvisent paléontologues d’un jour. En remuant scrupuleusement ciel et terre pour mettre à jour un univers de détails, ils dévoilent autant l’éclat de leurs découvertes que la minutie de leur approche.

On s’arrête d’abord sur la pochette de ce disque : une étrange tapisserie champêtre où des cervidés diaphanes errent tranquillement à travers un sous-bois. On s’interroge ensuite sur son titre qui, désignant des empreintes fossilisées, conserve tout son mystère même si l’on y décèlerait volontiers la trace d’un manifeste musical. Un qui consisterait à sculpter en creux, à circonscrire plutôt que décrire, à appréhender une complexité corporelle en en livrant moins qu’une esquisse. On se réjouit enfin de voir collaborer de manière inédite deux musiciens dont on souhaite encore voir les discographies respectives s’étoffer. Dans la lignée de ses dispositifs non homologués (on se souvient de son usage très personnel du pick-up : « le microphone de la guitare enfin débarrassé d’elle »), Pascal Battus frotte à présent feuilles de papier, plaques de métal, bouts de bois, gobelets en plastic, blocs de polystyrène et autres cymbales contre des petits plateaux tournants entraînés par des moteurs électriques. Les sons produits par ces « surfaces rotatives » sont confrontés à ceux non moins radicaux propulsés par le saxophone alto de Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour.

Aussi éloignés soient-ils dans leur mécanique, les deux instruments/dispositifs parviennent à explorer des palettes étonnamment voisines et on se trouve souvent confondu lorsqu’il s’agit de distinguer la provenance de telle stridulation ou de tel vrombissement dans ces improvisations grouillantes d’activité. Cet écosystème sonore, dont l’existence semble attestée par la métaphore animalière filée le long de ces cinq titres, renferme manifestement un point d’eau qui attire anophèles et pachydermes. Des herbes hautes et des rochers moussus font également partie du paysage ; le vent, surtout, change de directions à chaque instant : bourrasques imprévisibles ou puissants tourbillonnements. La saxophoniste concentre son souffle avec une détermination absolue sur des matières qui sont pulvérisées en éclats nets, déployant une intensité qui rappelle celle du jeu de Stéphane Rives (y aurait-il un truc propre aux improvisateurs de l’axe Beyrouth-Paris ?). Produisant des textures non moins astringentes, les machines tournantes de son acolyte évoquent aussi bien des membranes de coléoptères qu’une scie circulaire, poussant un peu plus loin la polyphonie. La convergence harmonique atteint parfois l’unisson dans des passages particulièrement tendus, qui miment sans le savoir le comportement de certains moustiques capables de synchroniser la fréquence de leurs battements d’ailes lors de certains rituels d’approche. A l’évidence, lorsque insectes ou musiciens sont (littéralement) sur la même longueur d’onde, ça s’entend et le plaisir n’en est que davantage partagé.






Pascal Battus started out as a table guitarist (guitare environée – "surrounded guitar" – is what he called it at the time), but in recent years has, like many other practitioners of the instrument, probably fed up with carrying out a whole suitcase full of gear, downsized his kit. Here he plays "rotating surfaces" ("small motorised components from inside old Walkmans, used as exciters on different objects reacting as vibrators and resonators: sheets of paper, cardboard, plastic, wood, metal, polystyrene pieces and stems connected to cymbals") in the company of alto saxophonist Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour in a set of five remarkably colourful, even rowdy, improvisations splendidly recorded by the Instants Chavirés sound engineer Etienne Foyer. The variety of sounds Battus manages to conjure forth from his trashed Walkmans is most impressive: from wild stuck pig feedback shrieks to butterfly flutters, from teeth-grinding polystyrene squeals to forlorn whalesong, it's like a heavenly jam session, Burkhard Beins, Ferran Fages, Hong Chulki and Jason Lescalleet rolled into one. There's plenty here for Sehnaoui to get her teeth into (literally, it sounds like): the Lebanese-born saxophonist has rapidly established herself as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary improv, and Ichnites is another fine addition to her expanding discography. An ichnite, by the way, is a fossilised footprint, which might explain the presence of those animals on the album cover.. a couple of stags, a doe, a horse, a squirrel and (odd man out) what looks like a lonely spermatozoid trying to swim under a wooden chair in the middle of a forest. Intrigued? Wait until you hear the music. Oh yes, if you're allergic to high frequency meltdown, you may want to step out for a quick drink halfway through "Fouilles & Rongement" – yeouch!–DW

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------FROM JAZZWORD BY KEN WAXMAN



Pascal Battus/Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour

Potlatch P110


Magda Mayas/Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour


OlofBright OBCD 28

Probing the furthest reaches of saxophone texture and timbre has been the preoccupation of altoist Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour’s improvising during the past few years. Recorded within a month of one another, Teeming and Ichnites capture two significant performances by the Paris-based reedist.

Together they’re notable sonically and sociologically. Sonically the atonal fragmentation of breath, reed and metal in which she specializes is presented in different duo contexts. All-acoustic, Teeming teams Abdelnour with Berlin-based prepared piano explorer Magda Mayas. On the other CD, her partner is Paris’ Pascal Battus who uses motorized components from old walkmans as exciters, vibrators and resonators on cymbals and objects made of, among other substances, plastic, paper and cardboard. Sociologically, Abdelnour who is of Lebanese background, and who in the past has mainly played and recorded with improvisers on the Beirut-Paris axis, here establishes her own style with new partners, who while equally non-traditional in their playing, share similar creative DNA with her.

Although elements of blended translucent sound layers mask rigid tone identification on both CDs, the pianist’s and the saxophonist’s musical persona are clearly defined on their disc. Chiaroscuro textural extensions and pointillist strategies are so prominent on Ichnites however that categorically ascribing certain resonating tones to one or the other is almost impossible and nearly pointless.

Battus in the past has worked with players such as guitarist Camel Zekri and bass trombonist Thierry Madiot. Here his strategies vacillate between those in which he pushes his motors to create a vacuum cleaner drone that dominates the entire aural air space to the creation of less obtrusive ragged splinters and ratchets which either pulse in isolation or complement the saxophonist’s trills in double counterpoint.

For her part Abdelnour unleashes a trick bag full of extended techniques which range from bird-whistled squeaks and high-pitched yelps to segmented breaths, split tones and vibrating tongue stops. These reed gymnastics stretch the narrative tessitura next to the rotating, band-saw like turns, unyielding drones and harsh, oscillated hums from Battus’ contraptions. During the CD’s five tracks, individual agitated pitches arte converted into definitive sound assemblies, confirming the impossibility of ascertaining where one person’s contribution ends and the other’s begins. Alongside this are enough pressurized, fortissimo roars which appear and vanish so frequently that they further muddy identification.

Especially notable are the reflective abrasions created by rattling objects or pressing them against equally unyielding substances, the sounds of which characterize “reliefs de repas”. Soon mercurial pitches swell to almost pipe-organ-like reverberations without revealing whether the centrifugal forces propelling them are the result of the high-pitched friction from Battus’ implements or the multiphonic air rammed into the dual improvisation from Abdelnour. Although the two also evolve in perfect symmetry on “fouilles et rongement”, the separation is clearer. The clattering and chirping smacks from rotated surfaces of polystyrene and cardboard can definitely be attributed to Battus. Still, the saxophonist’s windstorm of animal yowls and thin, sharp trills vibrate enough altissimo flattement to almost mirror the other’s ragged efforts.

Created by another bravura duo, Teaming is less sonically baffling, since during the CD’s three extended improvisations the identifiable characteristics of the piano and the saxophone are never in doubt – although some timbres do come close at times. Mayas, who has recorded with drummer Tony Buck and guitarist Michael Renkel among others, has as advanced a command of prepared and non-prepared piano techniques as Abdelnour has of saxophone styling. Among the strategies Mayas reveals are ricocheting soundboard snaps, strummed action and plucks, mandolin-like twangs; plus the sounds of loose objects rolling among the internal strings. In polyphonic opposition, the reedist introduces choked whistles, blurred growls, staccato licks, unaccented trills and watery bubbles.

Evidently created in real time, the tracks accelerate in intensity and freedom. By the time “I could only watch it happen”, the final track, rolls around, its title describes the nearly paranormal qualities sometime present in profound improvisations. Following the sequences of thickening staccato pressure that have been building through side-slipping tones that encompass node-stretching friction, resonating strings, clipped keys, tongue stops and unrestrained reed glossolalia, the climax explodes into multi-dimensional variations.

Working together, the intertwining double counterpoint stretches out and becomes more intense. The pianist seems to be scraping the end of a sharpened screwdriver against the soundboard, action and speaking frame to produce jagged tones, while at the same time revealing contrasting dynamics on the keys themselves. Meantime the saxophonist spews out growls and spittle-encrusted bubbles plus fore-shorted reed squeaks. Eventually a sequence of meditative chording from the pianist signals a final variant that includes clanking keys and metronomic rumbles on Mayas’ side with moderated tongue slaps that narrow to strident peeps on Abdelnour’s. As the saxophonist throat growls and tongue pops while shaking her horn’s body tube for added textures, Mayas’ contrapuntal single timbres accelerate to wood-shaking internal piano pumps, before both sound streams shrink to silence.

New aural essays on the further liberation of saxophone timbres, these CDs outline the contours of Abdelnour’s evolving style. They also demonstrate how she attains it through careful cooperation with two stylistically different, but sympathetic, fellow sound explorers.

-- Ken Waxman





Jacques Attali dans "Bruits" avançait l'idée de petites structures domestiques de production-diffusion se substituant aux mastodontes de la musique. L'histoire a confirmé cette hypothèse. Pensons à l'avant-gardiste Glenn Gould délaissant les concerts pour monter Bach en studio, bout par bout, avec le meilleur de chaque prise.
De fait, les pertes entre la matrice et la copie, entre l'objet et l'¦uvre, le pop et l' art se sont drastiquement réduites. Un bon dispositif d'audition peut supplanter le concert (interprétation forcée, absence de liberté de l'auditeur concernant le choix du moment et de la durée), devenir un moment privilégié, une approche "active" des ¦uvres concentrées ou mixées avec les sons ambiants, équalisés, amplifiés, spatialisés sur mesure.
Ichnites avec ses micros et ses amplificateurs ne dira pas le contraire! Pascal Battus officie aux moteurs de walkman pour entraîner des objets, les fouetter, passant du rythme à la texture avec grâce; Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour à l'alto parkérien grossit les petites souillures mécaniques, le tourbillon du souffle et les clapotements mouillés de l'embouchure; elle gifle l'anche, tressaille des doigts, mâche l'ébonite (entre autres). Ses sifflements cisaillent délicieusement le tympan, poussant la transduction cochléenne aux extrêmes de la lymphe apicale.
Cliquetis mécaniques, sons grinçants, périodiques, ronflettes, roulis aquatiques, cuivrés, drones tressés aux grains du tuyau poumoné, l'alto se dévoilant fugitivement en surplomb d'une électronique agitée.
Le duo produit une flore luxuriante de timbres servie par un "timing", une écoute mutuelle sans faille qui place Ichnites au meilleur de l'improvisation "non-idiomatique".
Arnold Schönberg a dit que la hauteur est "le timbre mesuré dans une seule directionŠ"; l'amplitude en est une autre, "la sensation variant au fil du logarithmeŠ" d'un tableau sonore infini.
Bravo à Potlatch qui continue envers et contre tout, loin de l'industrie, un parcours sans faute, unique dans les labels français de musique contemporaine superground !
PS Superground est un qualitatif forgé par l'artiste André du Colombier à partir du mot taupinesque, usé et surtout récupéré à toutes les sauces, d'underground.
Boris Wlassoff




Christine Sehnaoui har numera lagt till sitt flicknamn Abdelnour, om någon undrade. Hon hör till de impromusiker, som ännu inte slagit sig till ro för att spela sig själva. Varje album är annorlunda. Något har lagts till, en stämning har skapats, nya ljud har exploaterats och andra övergivits. Och framförallt har sammanfoganden bytts ut. Hennes musik är som att lägga olika plan till varandra som skaver inbördes. Det är vassa, skarpa block. Hon andas på rörbladet, blåser på instrumentet, fyller vatten i klockstycket, dämpar, slår, smeker, drar in och hämtar plötsligt andan för att fylla luften med sammantvinnade ljud i en oändlig ljudkonstruktion som pågår cirkulärt.

Ofta lockar hon fram besläktade tongångar hos spelkamraterna. Pascal Battus använder små roterande grejer, som tillexempel funnits i gamla Walkman eller de kan härröra från vibrerande apparater, och det kan också bara var snurregrejer av papper, plast, trä. Han sätter sprutt på dem och ett cirkulerande surr uppstår av olika kvaliteter. Den här ljudkvaliteten finns ju också hos Christine, där hon blåser, andas och stoppar saker i klockstycket. Det understryks här. Och hon trivs fint i duospel, där den andre förser henne med ett slags rytm, timing och indelning av tiden, eftersom hon själv gärna sänder musiken likt drakar upp i skyn. Hennes musiktid är inte lineär, den är om något drömsk och vertikal. Under denna resa, denna strävan efter lätthet, finner hon klanger och ljud. Det är dem hon trollar med. Ständigt på jakt efter nya. Men i minne sätter hon alltid upp en helhetsklang. Som en smak på stycket. Också här får Battus komma in och busa litet, för hans vibrerande, roterande inpass är ju ofta en kort kulmen som avklingar. Han lägger bit till bit på ett vis Christine sällan gör.

Den här duon kanske inte är i klass med vad hon gjort tillsammans med Michel Waisvisz eller Sven-Åke Johansson eller Magda Mayas, men det är friskt och fullt av upptäckter. En spritt språngande levande impro där båda lånar uttryck av varann och tillsammans stundtals lyckas låta som en gammal bandkomposition. Men de två skär på tvärs genom alla givna vis att vara. Det är mycket starkt.