Monday, November 30, 2015

Jean-Marc Foussat & Les Autres, Alternative Oblique

Today's program covers so vast a terrain that I find myself gathering my thoughts even as I begin to write. It is by Jean-Marc Foussat & Les Autres, a four-CD set entitled Alternative Oblique (improvising beings ib38). So what is it? It is an extraordinary gathering of musical examples of an avant sort, centered around Jean-Marc Foussat and some of the music he has made with self and "others" from 1973 to 2015.

As many readers may know (especially those who read my blogs regularly) Maestro Foussat is one of the principal practitioners of electronics & electro-acoustics on the free music scene in Europe these days, a voice of distinction in the live arena for the most part with a very creative flair that he applies to synths and other means to create tone-noise textures that often blend with live free musicians for potent and varied mixes.

This album set is a kind of retrospective, a biography in sound, of some of the music he has made over the years, I believe all of it unreleased. We begin with Jean-Marc on home-made guitar in a power trio of avant garage sorts, and experience him with various groupings that include his guitar and electronics for some raw avant adventure. In the course of this adventure we hear some of his solo electronic works, and a good deal of highly electric zonings in a shifting array of local free and free-rockers. In the end we get some recent music making with Foussat on synths and an array of avant totems along with lesser-knowns in a varied ensemble-oriented outer jazz and new music hybrid. So there are important appearances by Joe McPhee, Paul Lovens, Makoto Sato and others.

There is so much music here that a summary is difficult. There are moments of quasi art brut, raw, primal rock and beyond. And then there are essays in pure noise-sound. Then there is avant free ensemble music of the improv variety.

Altogether the listener has much work to do in absorbing the sheer infinity of possibilities. Some of it is intentionally crude, garage like, but there is a good deal that has a free sophistication as well.

Not all of it is in the masterpiece vein, but it all pushes the envelope as to what is "proper" to the avant garde at the same time as it defines what that is and has been for Jean-Marc Foussat. Some may find some of this rough going, "difficult" in various ways, but if you open yourself up you may well find yourself captivated with the sounds, the rigor, the looseness, the trajectory and even the intensive experimental foundering-floundering that some of the early work intentionally puts forward.

Much of it is exceptional in ways perhaps only Foussat can be right now. It all has that joy of underground spirit that brought many of us to the avant in earlier days. Now that does not mean that absolutely everybody will like all of it. I find it bracing but best served in single-CD doses in a sitting. There is nothing the least bit routine in this music. If you don't like electronics this may not be for you. But if you do and would like to get a real grip on the Foussat universe, this is the dope!

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