Jean-Luc Guionnet & Toshimaru Nakamura


20 Mar 2009  •  Glasgow University Chapel, Glasgow

Brain boiling duo improvisation by great Japanese no input mixing desk pioneer Toshi Nakamura and french organ philosopher Jean-Luc Guionnet. Toshi turns his mixing desk into an instrument of fizzing electric potential by looping the output back into the input, creating a feedback system. Jean-Luc's blasts of electronic sounding sax/ organ always sit best next to the static fuzz of abused hardware.

Toshi is one of the leading experimental Japanese musicians, with a close connection to and shared interests with Sachiko and Otomo who are performing on Sunday. I think he’s interested in stillness a lot, stillness and texture.  Jean-Luc is a French saxophonist, organist and electro-acoustic composer who has collaborated with loads of musicians we’ve already worked with (Jerome Noetinger, Eric La Casa (oh, you should really hear their 2-5 CD.  Field recordings of Jean-Luc playing saxophone in every room of a series of houses, recorded from one position in the house, and with interviews with the homeowners following.  It’s brilliant: a sonic exploration of everyday spaces, atmospheres and ambiences.)).


What are they doing? Originally a guitarist, (His album Side Guitar is a classic with an incredible ability to sort of drone you into an almost comatose state. I think Toshi has even said it used to make him fall asleep when mastering it.  It’s really very intense.) for the last 10 or so years Toshi has mainly worked with his own no-input-mixing-board, a mixer with the output connected (via pedals and electronics) into it’s own input, a feedback loop of crackling electronic potential which Toshi has become an extremely subtle master of. He can produce almost inaudible wavering tones, to broken static bursts, tiny almost not there detail to jarring crackle.  I’d say also that his sounds are always anonymous, like they have an unrecognisable, nameless quality: they just are, although you couldn’t say what exactly made them.  I suppose over time you could come to recognise Toshi’s sounds as belonging to Toshi, but I don’t think he thinks like that.  I’ll ask him. Jean-Luc is probably best known for his sax playing, but here he will (mostly, maybe entirely) be playing the organ.  What he shares with and gives to both instruments is not really anything to do with extended techniques (although he can break those out if needs be) but more like a willingness to enter into an enjoyment of musical arguments, scraps or clashes of sound and approach; it’s not antagonistic, it’s more a disposition towards exploring contrasts.  I might be totally wrong about this.  His sense of timing contributes to this, (when he wants to do something and when not to), and in the best situations can force collaborations to take really unexpected courses. This duo is an ongoing duo, which caused quite a bit of argument: their MAP album seems to be either in many people’s top 10’s of 2008, or really hated. 


Why is this? Why is it interesting? I should say that Jean-Luc can make the organ sound almost alien: brutish, dissonant, discordant, arrhythmic.  But more than the sounds I like their duo because it has a very odd sense of timing, or pace, or something. Or maybe it’s a very similar pace, but applied to really different instruments.  Both are very still with bursts of energy, but there is an extreme difference in the amount of physical energy expended by either musician, and the relationship between that effort and the sounds it produces.  Toshi is always so still, considered. Tiny movements can create tiny wavering sounds, but equally small movements can cause caustic electronic bursts of static.  One movement can result in lots of activity.  While with Jean-Luc, on sax or on organ there is a one-to-one relationship between movement and sound.  A loud blast of organ comes from a big, heavy movement.  Complex trilling or detail on a sax comes from tens of tiny physical movements in his hands, cheeks, tongue.  This difference in physicality, and tension between the responsive nature of the instruments of each musician puts the music on edge.  It’s a sometimes confounding listen; a music full of stops and starts, always going down funny roads or even dead ends but always finding a way out again.  I think it’s contrary, and very successful at it. And for all that I find it quite thrilling.

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