08 February 2017


I was interested to hear the next outfit, RHRR Trio out of France, a formed band rather than a meeting of performers without a shared history. RHRR are Frederick, Guylaine and Xavier, piano, vocals and clarinet. Things got seriously interesting here. This was a meeting of minds with history and that history was evident, in their responsiveness, ease, purpose, those things that develop with time together. Various piano preparations, playing under the lid, bow hair drawn across strings for drones, various implements tapping or otherwise expanding sound, later some playing on the keys, sparse and open and with ill-defined time, plinks and bells ringing in the air. At the centre, a voice of unearthly quality and inventiveness. This was really the centre for me: voice is so central to our humanity, so much a product of our core. And what voice! Unearthly, yes, with whistles and squeaks, impossible sounds to imagine from a voice, but here they were. But then animal sounds, sounds of the wilderness, like listening with open ears in a primitive environ for a first time. Approaching, retracting, mobility and movement: very expressive in body and movement, often closed fists or swaying to and from the mic with closed eyes, every movement spelling the sound. Some meaningless words, too, pleading, although language-like voice is a rarity here. And Xavier on clarinet, responding, filling, mobile too, arcs as clarinet sweeps upward, providing structure and conversation. I was hugely taken by Guylaine with her intriguing and virtuosic vocalisations, but the whole ensemble was a gem. RHRR Trio are Frederick Blondy (piano), Guylaine Cosseron (vocals) and Xavier Charles (clarinet) out of France.

Solo bass up next, from Norwegian Christian M Svendsen. Throughout, his bass playing was strong, unrelenting, physical, visual, using feet and hands and up to three bows. This performance was not different. An unyielding German bow bouncing quavers at 190bpm for about twenty minutes varying in intensity, volume, changing tone through overtones despite little movement of the left hand, a foot to stop a string for one bow while the other hand bows otherwise, another bow played from the mouth. Strange but still those unrelenting quavers at 190bpm. One bow in a back pocket, taking the bass for a walk around that Drill Hall Gallery corridor just built for this purpose, audience listening to reflections from than coffered ceiling, more distant and muffled, then a return to the stage, then polyrhythms played by two bouncing bows, perhaps 5 over four. Still, after 20 mins, those incessant quavers at 190bpm. A feat of commitment, application, strength. Is this painful? Maybe. It's certainly memorable.

Christian M Svendsen (bass) played a solo set.

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