Serge Baghdassarians / Boris Baltschun / Alessandro Bosetti / Michel Doneda

track listing
Strömung I (6:57) l Strömung II (14:07) l Strömung III (5:13) Strömung IV (4:36) l Strömung V (5:38) l Strömung VI (8:58)

Serge Baghdassarians guitar and mixing desk
Boris Baltschun sampler
Alessandro Bosetti soprano saxophone
Michel Doneda soprano and sopranino saxophones

Recorded at Ausland/Berlin in march 2004

La musique improvisée, quelle que soit la forme qu’elle puisse prendre, n’est jamais d’une approche facile. Pour autant il n’en demeure pas moins qu’elle peut se révéler la plus fascinante des expériences. Là où les esprits obtus n’y voient que du bruit aux formes impalpables, l’improvisation reste un domaine de recherche exigeant qui ouvre des portes derrière lesquelles peu osent s’aventurer. Le quatuor formé par Serge Baghdassarians, Boris Baltschun, Alessandro Bosetti et Michel Doneda a cette volonté d’explorer les profondeurs les plus obscurs de l’imagination. Comme on peut s’en douter la prise de risque est ici importante. S’orientant vers une musique crépusculaire les quatre hommes oscillent entre un minimalisme froid et un bruitisme maîtrisé mais qui n’en est pas moins une sorte d’apologie de la déstructuration. On sent que les compères s’en donnent à cœur joie dans les différentes triturations sonores qui composent les six pièces de cet album. Même si la gravité est de rigueur on ne peut s’empêcher d’être subjugué par l’effort produit par cette formation.
A vrai dire on ne saurait l’être moins. Même si son apparente complexité peut rebuter au premier abord, il peut facilement intéresser l’auditeur averti. Ne cherchant jamais la facilité les quatre musiciens s’efforcent de créer de multiples modulations sonores qui évoluent avec une fluidité à toutes épreuves. Ainsi il est hors de question sur Strom de se cantonner dans la moindre linéarité. Jamais très loin de la musique concrète ce disque est comme un souffle venteux qui, sans cesse tournoyant, se voudrait multidirectionnel. Les blasés diront certainement que Strom n’est rien de plus qu’un disque supplémentaire dans la discographie imposante de types comme Bosetti ou Doneda. Ce serait terriblement injuste. Nous dirons que Strom est une pierre non symbolique apportée à l’édifice de la recherche de nouvelles formes sonores et du beau. Ce n’est déjà pas si mal.
Fabien l Liability Webzine l Décembre 2004

The quartet of Serge Baghdassarians (g, mixing desk), Boris Baltschun (sampler), Alessandro Bosetti (ss), and Michel Doneda (ss) deliver a challenging and bewitching set (Strömung 1 - VI. 45:53. March 2004, Berlin) of minimalist improvisations on Strom.
Rigorously non-idiomatic and almost ascetic, the music here sounds like a long slow chorus of bowed metal and steam escaping from vents. ln some ways it sounds almost like a quartet of Rafael Toral playing together. The saxophonists play in an extreme style far closer to Bhob Rainey than Steve Lacy, while the electronics players conjure up dark clouds laced with detail and subtle scrapings (input jacks manipulated, feedback summoned, or strings stroked, for example).
Things do certainly get occasionalIy rowdy, as on "II" or the harsh whistles of "III", but the feel is generally reserved. Though this stuff isn't for everyone, I find it compelling. Patient, active listening reveals treasures.
Jason Bivins l Cadence l May 2005

Strom is Doneda's most recent release on the Potlatch label. Here the reed player joins three Berlin-based musicians for a set of six improvisations that manages to erase any borders between ascetic, micro-textured electronics and the gestural, sonic extremes of extended reed playing. Doneda and Alessandro Bosetti along with Bhob Rainey explored the outer reaches of reed interactions on their Potlatch release Placés dans l'air. Here Baghdassarians' "guitar and mixing desk" and Baltschun's sampler add variegated grit to the two reed players' sputters of breath, whispered shards of harmonics, and patter of keypads.
Baghdassarians and Baltschun have honed their improvisational strategies with musicians like Axel Dorner, Günter Christmann, and Burkhard Beins and their elements of guitar and electronics manifest themselves as subtle stabs of sine waves, percussive overtones, and crackling hiss; with no recognizable sign of strings or readily identifiable sampIes to be heard. What grips the listener here is how the four mesh these timbres, textures, and abstracted vocabulary into an organically unified whole. With concentrated effort, one can begin to deconstruct the various voices. But it is their interconnected collective interactions that make the deepest impression. Keith Rowe often talks about the influence of string quartet music on his work and the spontaneous structures these four create elicit that type of variegated layering. While the six improvisations each work as autonomous statements; together they develop a dramatic arc, juxtaposing quiet whispers, harsh skirling shreds, and darkly resonating rumbles and roars that end the set.
Michael Rosenstein l Signal to Noise l March 2005

If you've ever wondered how to make good on the dictum "Don't fret the reaper, reap the fretter," Strom is a good headstart. A catalog of whipping hisses, thin tubes of shaken air, and expanding shafts of breath from Alessandro Bosetti (soprano sax) and Michel Doneda (soprano and sopranino saxes) bob against domestic electronic malfunctions - think lawn mower, electric toothbrush, printer - musicalized by Serge Baghdassarians (guitar and mixing desk) and Boris Baltschun (sampler).
The extremely high-pitched improv of sine waves, feedback, and reed-biting is amply on display here, but the dynamic more closely resembles the richness of Voice Crack than the monologic of Toshimaru Nakamura. The longest track on Strom, Strömung II, very gradually reaches an incredible pitch of intensity during the seventh minute, halfway through the cut, when what sounds like a donkey mew explodes, pushing the improvisation one step past the threshold of navigable sound into a suddenly-agreed-upon quiet, and just a little rhythmic pulse of blipping static flutters faintly. Slowly more breath emerges, and metal brushes charcoal in a whirlpool; air is let out of a balloon as a most deliberate fixation.
The tremolo hum during Strömung IV sets the pace for the creepy suspense and masterful evocation of induced, realized, and lingering panic to be found during Strömung V. Impatience will get you nowhere here; your attention will be worthily devoured.
Andrew Choate l Coda l March 2005

Boris Baltschun and Serge Baghdassarians join soprano saxophonists Alessandro Bosetti and Michel Doneda here for some very freaky textural improvisation. Baltschun and Baghdassarians play sampler and mixing desk, respectively (Baghdassarians is also credited with guitar, but only a few sounds are recognizable as a guitar), which might lead you to believe that the electronics and saxophones are pitted against one another somehow. But the saxophones can only be distinguished from the electronics with very close listening, and all the instruments sound like muffled screams, busted vacuum cleaners and tests of the emergency broadcast system.
Baltschun and Baghdassarians, who also often record and perform together as a duo, both have a knack for improvising electronic sounds that change frequently without losing attention to detail. (Baltschun also demonstrated these abilities on 2004’s excellent No Furniture with Axel Dörner and Kai Fagaschinski.) The electronics on Strom also manage to sound less than pristine, in the sense that they sometimes sound as if they might be created by breath through a tube. Baltschun and Baghdassarians therefore match up nicely with Bosetti and Doneda.
These players’ attempts to obscure the ‘natural’ sounds of their instruments, along with the way the structures of these pieces are marked by changes in the group’s overlapping textures, place these players in the same ballpark as Bhob Rainey, Urs Leimgruber, Axel Dörner and Keith Rowe. Within that context, the most important characteristics of Strom are its production and intensity.
Bosetti and Doneda recently recorded together on another Potlatch release, 2003’s Placés dans l'Air with fellow saxophonist Rainey, and like that album, Strom manages to capture the sounds of the room in which it was recorded while still sounding like the microphones were positioned very close to the players. Bosetti and Doneda aren’t playing somewhere across the distance of a concert hall, they’re buzzing right in your ear while you’re all sitting in a cave, which makes their saxophones sound larger than life and often downright scary.
Strom also sounds restless – the four musicians here create textures that change more quickly than they typically do in this sort of music. The album is full of tension that never really resolves: even with all the movement from texture to texture, the players establish a consistent mood. Even though this music could never be described as aggressive (although it’s not ‘minimal’ or ‘lowercase,’ either), the musicians sound so sensitive to one another that they almost seem impatient. Strom is a very anxious-sounding and often frightening record, especially when it's loud. It also stands out even among these fine players’ catalogs, which is to say that it’s very, very good.
Charlie Wilmoth l Dusted Magazine l January 2005

Strom documents a March 2004 performance at Berlin’s Ausland venue by a quartet consisting of three Berlin-based musicians – Baghdassarians on guitar and mixing desk, Baltschun on sampler, and Bosetti on soprano saxophone – and a visiting Frenchman, Doneda, on soprano and sopranino saxophones. Constructed out of an array of hissing, rumbling and spluttering electronics and respiring reeds, its seven tracks exemplify electro-acoustic improvisation as a process of rebuilding the ship while it’s still at sea, as the constant entrances, changes and exits from each individual player create a collective kaleidoscopic flow of evolving juxtapositions. Free from teleology and fixed pulse, the group’s collages of organic breath and inorganic machine shift unpredictably but engrossingly between urgent intensity and brooding quietude, and in general the music possesses a propensity to both gross and subtle change that pleasantly distinguishes it from the rather petrified nullifications sometimes to be heard at the more "lowercase" end of the musical spectrum. A pleasure to the attentive ear, this is an excellent and strongly recommended disc.
Wayne Spencer l Paristransatlantic l January 2005

Another “beyond free music” release from the exquisite improvisation label Potlatch matches saxophonists Michel Doneda and Alessandro Bosetti with guitarist and mixer Serge Baghadassarians and sampler Boris Baltschun. The meeting of breath and machine produces a music of industry.
Doneda, a frequent participant in Potlatch outings, is quite comfortable with Italian saxophonist Bosetti, having recorded a trio Placés dans l'Air with Bhob Rainey. Sound artitst Baltschun is a member of No Furniture with Axel Dörner and Baghadassarians, who studied classical guitar, eschews any direct connection to that instrument here.
Strom mostly passes for a mediation on a subway platform. Breath passed through a saxophone is either altered electronically or submitted as extreme limits of pitch and sound. Wheels turn, squeals linger, and altered static give pause. Mostly the music is discovery of the hum and static you ignore as you wait for a train. Who is controlling those trains? Why is a warm wind passing? What clicks on and off in the darkness? The musicians work with a substantial vibration, an almost soundless presence, or at least one generated below the ears' ability to distinguish sound from feel. Nonetheless this is about feel and breath and the moment.
Mark Corroto l All about jazz l December 2004

I admit that my first thought upon seeing this disc was, “There goes Jacques with his soprano players again!” Happily, Strom manages to achieve a strong, harsh balance between the reeds and the electronics employed, resulting in a cleansing, abrasive bath of sound.
The first of six pieces begins with sharp, sandy whistles from Doneda and Bosetti, augmented in kind by Baghdassarians (guitar and mixing desk—incidentally, no recognizable guitar sounds are to be found herein) and Baltschun (sampler—possibly one operated along Sachiko M lines?). This sets up the general mode of the disc, the four musicians remaining within touching distance of each other, intertwining with enough ease so as to often make distinguishing who’s doing what a futile exercise. The saxophonists favor long, whooshing lines, lending the pieces an automotive sense of forward thrust. The evocation of metal scraping metal, like old train wheels making a tight bend in the track, is almost inescapable. Things edge several more steps into brutality with the next track (all are titled Strömung, I, II, III, etc.), rasping flutters high and low, pinging flanges, massive engines beneath the floor, subsiding just a bit as the evening shift takes over. While that might be the single most impressive piece here, none of the others falls far short. Each is wonderfully self-contained, both concentrating on a given sound-area and still leaving the feeling of unconstrainedness. Strömung V is quieter at its start but no less disturbing for its guttural belches and thin wheezes and it too erupts into a fantastic spray. The last selection, at witter with spittle and buzz from the beginning, is a fine conclusion, blasting through subterranean passages, up into heavy traffic and out into the icy night air.
It’s an excellent recording, matching the strongest work I’ve heard from all of these musicians individually. Highly recommended.

Brian Olewnick
l Bagatellen l November 2004