Sophie Agnel/Olivier Benoit

(In Situ)

It was thirty years ago that the release of Guitar Solos by Fred Frith (a very good album, by the way) brought to the fore a way of making music (and a whole world) that up to that moment had been situated outside the periphery of vision of a mass audience. Simplifying (more than) a little bit, it was just like this that the Baileys, the Parkers and the Mengelbergs suddenly found themselves under the spotlight. And I believe that nobody - not even the musicians themselves - could have predicted nowadays' rosy situation for an approach that just a few years later was already being talked about as having arrived at the phase of recapitulation - or of empty gestures.

On the contrary, some of the "historical" names are still with us, having diversified their approach; some names that were a bit in the background - say, AMM - are now in the center of people's consideration; links to "modern classical" - once upon a time whispered, sometimes rejected - are now quite often the object of essays; the appearance of the CD player has made possible the public exploration of the "granular" dimension - and laptops being accessible is not a factor to be discarded when thinking about "glitchism"; while the refusal of the teleological dimension goes hand in hand with the perception of reality as a "liquid" entity (Zygmunt Bauman has written many interesting things about that).

There's only one problem: who pays the bill? It is in fact extremely funny to notice that while musicians and labels have multiplied, the paying public has dwindled - and speculating about a reversal of the trend doesn't appear to be rational, since at the same time the old channels (Fripp, Frith, Bailey - or: Coleman, Mitchell, ROVA) have exhausted their possibilities. It would be quite interesting to argue whether links to museums, art galleries and the like have played a bigger part in the (Darwinian) survival of some (extremely difficult, indeed) stylistic (under)currents.

A long reasoning that - in a very roundabout way - brings us to Rip-Stop: Sophie Agnel on piano and Olivier Benoit on guitar. I had already had the pleasure of listening to these fine musicians, but never in the present combination. Hoping not to offend the musicians nor their record company, I'll say that Rip-Stop is made of sounds that any listener willing to devote his/her undivided attention in a very quiet environment (yes, life is not so simple) will consider as being music. The musicians match very well, working together towards a possible outcome - just listen to the repeated single piano note at the end of track one, the false resolution of track two, the percussive exploration of track three and the not banal vivaciousness of track four. Beautiful timbres, prepared instruments.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2004 | March 9, 2004