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Sophie Agnel, Phil Minton


Label: Another Timbre

Format: CD

Genre: Experimental

Out of stock

Recorded live at the June 2006 Jazz à Poitiers festival this little gem features the work of two truly extraordinary musicians, both of whom are giants from a technical and creative point of view: Phil Minrton and Sophie Agnel, an unusual and very welcome pairing in that ceaselessly changing world which is the improv scene. The former is well-known, and has the weight of many years’ experience on his shoulders, but refuses to give up and continues indomitably to explore the outer possibilities of the human voice. He is now plumbing its most hidden depths, often gratingly, but perhaps necessarily so, regressing to the most basic instincts from which he can ultimately progress and evolve. Sophie Agnel is no less powerful, one of the most interesting and original voices on today’s scene, though largely still undiscovered, given that her discography is small (for myself, I remember a noteworthy cd on Potlatch with Lionel Marchetti and Jerome Noetinger). Her approach to the piano is really surprising, a mysterious and fascinating mixture of inside and outside piano. Resonances, mictrotones, noises, dizzying cadences, squeaking strings, little hammerings and other sounds which I can’t find the words to describe; all very measured, melancholic yet incisive, like markings traced on the living flesh of the spirit.

 Listening to the first track on the cd, which is a kind of dance on the edge of a razor-blade, it’s hard to know what the sounds are. The vocalist creates a whole dictionary of breaths and stammerings, and it’s difficult to believe that the instrumental sounds are being produced solely by a pianist. Though it’s not immediately obvious how they are being played, the strings of the piano are resonated (I imagine) by a small bow, while at the same time on top of this chords are produced, sometimes intense, sometimes steeped with nervousness, so that you’re left puzzled as to how all these sounds can be produced with only two hands. Agnel is certainly a musician whom I would like to see live so that I can see with my own eyes just how she produces these sounds. It’s fantastic, and I wouldn’t want it any different. In a way that logically seems impossible, and which few others could certainly achieve, Minton’s singing blends easily into this dialogue with a pianist who seamlessly combines harshness and fragility. Sobbing, writhing, purring, blethering, always in his own particular style, though here he seems more introspective than elsewhere. Those who have heard him often may know what to expect, but the combined effect of the two musicians is really powerful.

 One thing that helps the disc succeed is the unexpected variety of the music, in which every track seems self-contained and sufficiently different from the others, unlike on many cd’s where the division into tracks seems merely for convenience. Thus, for example, the opening track is followed by something completely different, a piece built from refuges and pauses, in which the piano strings squeak and resonate luminously, while Minton, Janus-faced, is part avant-garde lyricist and part meditating monk. While the third track, different again, combines the mewing lamentations of Minton’s voice with Agnel’s emotive, dampened hammered chords. Like a drama of the absurd, lacerating, torturing and moving.” - Alfio Castorina - Kathodik webzine

Cat. number: at02
Year: 2009
Recorded on 4th June 2006 at Carré Bleu, Poitiers, France. Dedicated to the memory of Bernard Prouteau.