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pick-up | FATUM 005 | 15.00 €
pascal battus - pick-up

Parution novembre 2005
Dessins : Pascal Battus
Exemplaires uniques - série limitée à 500 exemplaires

Revue & Corrigée : Solo pick-up ou le microphone de la guitare enfin débarrassé d'elle
Pascal Battus (micro guitare, percussions, clochettes)
Affûtant et à l'affût de nouvelles matières sonores, Pascal Battus trouve des sons pour le silence, du silence pour les sons. Il développe sa pratique instrumentale autour de ce qu'il nomme la " guitare environnée " (micro-contact, électronique, objets divers) et les percussions (cloches, gongs…). Ici, il interprètera un solo de pick-up, c'est à dire du micro de sa guitare, mais sans l'instrument. Le pick-up a été conçu pour amplifier les cordes métalliques de la guitare. De la surface du micro rayonne un champ magnétique qui, comme un radar, étend une aire de captation pour tout bruit de fonctionnement d'appareil électrique, signal électronique et, bien sûr, tout acier vibrant. S'il place un objet métallique sur le micro, celui-ci réagit comme un micro-contact : ouvert au vaste champ de la percussion ou même convertible en instrument à vent. Il ne s'agit pourtant pas de définir un nouvel instrument mais plutôt de jouer avec les éléments démontés des outils qui nous entourent. Pascal Battus est dans le son. Pour sa matière, le décortiquant pour en extraire l'essence.

DAN WARBURTON Paris Transatlantic Media
''Pascal Battus plays table guitar. (He has been known to call it guitare environée – "surrounded guitar" – and here it's billed as "pick-up and prepared amplifier", but don't let that worry you: a lot of table guitarists in recent years have dreamt up different names for their instrumental set-ups, from Annette Krebs' "electroacoustic guitar" to Hans Tammen's "endangered guitar".) The instrument is laid flat and Battus works directly near or on its pick-ups with a whole range of objects, both electronic (e-bows, Walkmen, hand-held fans and various food mixers) and acoustic (springs, rulers, tubes and straws). Playing for him is a process of exploration, sonic research – and so, for us, is listening. The sounds Battus makes are at times quite extraordinary, and I'm often left scratching my head as to how they're produced (this from someone who has played and recorded several times with him), so much so that I become more concerned with the "how" than the "why". And yet Pick-Up, Battus' second solo outing after Massages Sonores #2 (Pink, 2003) consists of two extended tracks, "Lent de mains" (33'46") and "Pousse hier à demain" (39'26") which would seem to imply I'm to approach them as large-scale structures, i.e. try to determine and judge an overriding sense of musical logic that articulates the overall form of each piece. But I'm not sure there is one. And if there isn't, does it matter? In short, I'm splinched – at one level the album works beautifully, its moments enthrall me, but at another it fails to keep my attention. From one moment to the next I can be concentrating intently or switched off and elsewhere. "If your mind wanders, let it.." goes the old quotation from Cage, but though such approbation might be reassuring it doesn't somehow justify my drifting off. I know how carefully Pascal selects, works and sequences his sounds, and I feel distinctly uneasy and not a little guilty when I realise I'm not paying full attention. Why is my mind wandering? Is it me, or the music? I'd say it's both.

As an improvising musician of sorts myself, I'm often aware of a kind of temporal splinching during the performance, a sensation of being at one and the same time in the moment, reacting to the input of my fellow musicians, shaping the music from one instant to another, and yet also curiously outside the piece, thinking of where it came from and how (and when) it might finish. In addition to such purely musical considerations, there's a whole lot of sensory input from elsewhere to contend with: who's that asshole talking loud at the bar (it's not me this time)? Who forgot to turn off their bloody mobile phone? True, there must be many improvisers who are more or less sensitive to events around them than I am – remember the apocryphal story of the laptopper who was checking his email during a gig (how about that for a splinch?) – but even if I am functioning in a state of heightened awareness when I play I'm not able to exclude the world around me. Why should listening be any different?

On Dans l'Involucre Entre Ouvert (Battus' fondness for word play and untranslatable puns and contrepèteries is well known, but before you ask I haven't figured out what the title means either) he trades the guitar for an "acoustic Walkman". If you're wondering what the hell that is, it might help to know he's playing with Barcelona's Ferran Fages, who's released a whole slew of fine albums on which he plays "acoustic turntable", i.e. a standard turntable used as a motor to excite and be excited by various objects placed on or near it, the results amplified and treated in real time. Where Fages uses a turntable, Battus turns his attention to the inner workings of the humble portable stereo. The six tracks were recorded in real time at Battus' home in Bagnolet in November 2004, and the only editing as such consists of fades in and out.
Where this all ties in with the splinching idea is not the disc itself but a review I read of it recently by my friend Brian Olewnick over at Bagatellen, a slightly edited version of which runs as follows:
"I imagine each of us has some defined point at which, more or less, we determine that the aural input we’re receiving changes from 'music' into 'noise'. Or enjoyable noise into disagreeable noise. Not that this is necessarily the correct way to view things and perhaps some of you have succeeded in freeing yourselves to the extent that this is no longer a concern. But probably not, else why are you wasting your time reading about discs? In any case, Dans l’Involucre Entre Ouvert damn near straddles that line for me. It’s not just that it’s loud and obnoxious (or quiet and obnoxious). Hardly a concern, after all. It’s just that much of the disc seems pointlessly loud/quiet and obnoxious. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be worried about such an archaic concept as 'pointlessness' but curse me for an old fart, those thoughts do creep in. Somewhere, I distinguish between what I perceive to be just screwing around and noise I enjoy listening to and a good half of this disc, sad to say, fell on the side of the former."

I'm not here to take issue with Brian's review at all – he says things I agree with and others I don't – but I'm led to wonder if he would have written what he did if he had listened to it as many times as he has the Erstwhile catalogue that he reviews so assiduously for All Music Guide (old story this.. as any journalist will tell you, Erstwhile's Jon Abbey insists that anyone reviewing his releases listens to them carefully several times before committing pen to paper – and rightly so). I'm also curious to know exactly how he distinguishes between what he perceives to be screwing around and noise he enjoys listening to, but maybe he'll be able to write in and tell us. Of course, I'm guessing Brian hasn't listened to the Fagus outing as often as he has the recent series of ErstLive releases, but I may be wrong. Assuming I'm not, it prompts (yet again) the question of how many times one should listen to an album before attempting to write a review of it, but also – what's more interesting here – whether familiarity with an album reduces splinching, i.e. the more you listen, the closer you listen, the better you listen and the more you find. I'm not sure it does. I think it depends on the music.

Last night I listened to Ravel's Mallarmé songs for the first time in about 20 years and was utterly captivated from beginning to end. Each tiny detail of the harmony and the orchestration, not to mention the nuances of soprano Jill Gomez's interpretation, totally imposed itself on me. My concentration was absolute. Now before you fling a pot of tea at the screen and wail that it's not fair to compare through-composed and totally improvised music, I should add the same thing happened last week with the Emanem reissue of News From The Shed (John Butcher / Phil Durrant / Paul Lovens / Radu Malfatti / John Russell, reviewed here last month). I've become aware that one of the consequences of electroacoustic improvised music's recent shift towards the slowmoving, the laminal, as opposed to the high-speed in-the-moment cut-and-thrust that characterised both the first and second "generations" of improvisers – in terms of vocabulary Karyobin and My Favourite Animals are worlds apart but as far as overall event density goes they're strikingly similar – is that it's become easier to drift off. Put another way, you can, if you so desire, listen to Efzeg or the Four Gentlemen of the Guitar at "ambient" volume and still enjoy them. (Whether you should or not is a different question, but ultimately how you choose to listen to music is your business – personally I rather like listening to Merzbow at threshold-of-audibility level and Bernhard Günter at volume level 9, but that's just me.) But other albums just don't work like that: Derek Bailey's music has a knack of impinging on whatever you're doing, even at low volume. So does the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Excuse me while I take my old warhorse for a trot round the track here, but I think, in my case, it comes down to a concern for pitch and rhythm. Old habits die hard, and I'm particularly sensitive to aspects of music that, as an instrumentalist and composer, I've spent a lot of time trying to understand and master. Maybe we should ask someone who's grown up in a different musical environment – no formal musical education, with as many Hafler Trio albums as I have Misha Mengelbergs – and see how s/he reacts to Drop Me Off At 96th or Hot And Cold Heroes.

Let's be clear about one thing: I'm not being judgemental here, either by implying that Bailey or Stevens' music is somehow better because it manages to retain my attention more than a lot of recent EAI. All I'm saying is that by evolving away from certain time-honoured principles and parameters, improvised music invites different ways of listening, some of which are less concentrated and focused. And that shift in concentration and focus is something that applies both to performers and listeners, musicians and journalists. We live in interesting – if troubled – times, and it's only natural that today's art reflects that; these two albums by Pascal Battus and Ferran Fages are fine, representative examples of everything I find positive and exciting in today's improvised music. But do try, hard though it may be, not to get yourself splinched: remember Ron Weasley failed his Apparition Test because he left half an eyebrow behind.''

Rigobert Dittmann - Bad Alchemy Magazin
Pick-Up (FATUM 004, 2005) von PASCAL BATTUS ziert noch surreale Graphik von Immer selbst. Battus zupft und zerrt an den Ohren als Anti-Gitarrist mit knarziger Bruitistik. Zwei ausgedehnte Improvisationen schaben und klopfen und saugen geradezu per Tonabnehmer aus den Saiten entsprechend schäbige Drones oder knackende Plops, tuckernde und zirpende Geräusche, sogar abgerissene Stimmfetzen sind zu hören. Oder ‚gurrende Tauben‘, ‚Aquaplaningverkehr‘, Illusionen, erzeugt durch elektrifizierte Mikropercussion, ‚Störungen‘, Verzerrungen, wie allerfrüheste Versuche der Radioübertragung. Der zweite Durchgang ist anfangs gitarristischer, zerfällt jedoch ebenfalls in gurgelndes Fauchen und das rumpelnde Geknatter eines geräuschverliebten Fingerspitzentanzes.