UK’s MUSIQUE MACHINE reviewed two of our releases : the slightly-overlooked IMAGINARY JUNCTION by quartet WARD/VERHOEVEN/SERRIES/ROBERTS gets a raving review with a 4 out 5 rating ! and new album ‘PIECES OF APPARATUS’ by PIERRE GERARD. Of course the albums are still available from our webstore.

“4 out of 5 rating ! Imaginary Junction presents the listener with two lengthy and eventful slices of improvising- that nicely flip ‘n’ flop between busy manic-ness, and more atmospheric strolls and crawls. The CD brings together the talents of Cath Roberts- baritone saxophone and objects, Dirk Serries- acoustic guitar, Martina Verhoeven- piano, and Tom Ward- flute, Clarinet and bass clarinet.

The two tracks were recorded in July of last year- and due I’m guessing to Covid it was recorded in two separate locations Brockley in the UK, and Sint-Lennaarts in Belgium. With the players being able to hear each other in real-time. And really you wouldn’t know it was done in this way, as all four players bounce off and reacting to each other very well, for two very involving and rewarding tracks that are alive with both invention and shifting mood/ atmospherics.

The two tracks are simply entitled Part One and Part Two- with each rolling in near the half-an-hour mark, for a total release playtime of sixty minutes. “Part One” opens with a mix of rapidly darting and strumming guitar, and snaking rustle. Fairly soon both piano and flute enter,  with the sax, also joining in too- together the instruments create an intricate and vibrate soundscape, which feels both manic and playful. As we move on things start to shift down, then up again in gears- as go from moody warbling horns, edged by slowed atmospheric scapes, and darted by dramatic piano key. Back to suddenly shifting and flitting blends of the instruments- sometimes with all playing at the same, at others with just two players.

Moving onto “Part Two”, and we begin with a mixture of forking and weaving horn work,  and tempered textural creaks. As we progress we find bounding low-end piano tones coming into looping play, as well as more layers of horn bay and scream. Later on, we shift onto melancholic drifts of piano notations, drifted by smoky honks, shimmering neck slides, jittering object detail and moody flute trails. Moving onto doomy horn drags, gloomily low piano key shifts and sinister textural fiddles. With the track finishing on a more manic and wacky, but still a little shady tip with a mix of rapid scabbing horn and guitar neck work over glumly tolling piano tones.

I must say I enjoy most of what the New Wave Of Jazz label puts out, but I have to say Imaginary Junction is a real corker of a release, with this four-piece really weaving some wonderful improvised magic. So if you enjoy rewardingly shifting improv, that moves between detailed manic-ness and more atmospheric fare.”

Pieces Of Apparatus severs up five examples of extremely sparse and often spaced-out improv for guitar- with all the tracks unfolding in both a jaggedly wondering, dartingly inventive, and largely rewarding manner. Here on the New Wave Of Jazz label is CD release, presented in the labels house style packaging of a white and grey box gatefold, that features a worthy write-up about both Gérard work in general and the pieces offered up here.

Pierre Gérard is based in  Liège, Belgium- and has been releasing work since around 2008. He’s so far ( according to Discogs) racked up around twenty releases- with seemingly most of these been full-lengths. Pieces Of Apparatus is my first taster of his work, and I must say he has a rather distinctive sound that feels both wondering, that also purposeful. 
As a release Pieces Of Apparatus runs at spot on the fifty-three-minute mark- with each of the tracks hitting between three and fifteen minutes, though mostly they hit around the ten minute plus mark. Each of the tracks here features a similar sparse, spidery, and just amplified guitar tone- so while there’s not a lot of different sounds/ tone at play here, Gérard does manage to make each track have its own identity/ quirks. 
The album opens with “Formé Sur Un Bois De Rose Pâle”( Formed On A Pale Rosewood)- this is the longest piece here at just over fifteen and a half minute. It’s built around a blend of choppy ‘n’ darting picks,  points of slight reverb, with more fleeting moments of tap ‘n’ hack, tighter and smaller string scrubs, and higher-pitched neck fumbling. The track feels both nervy and awkward- yet at the same time wonkily spritely and strangle appealing in its jaggedly spaced flow.

By track three we come to “Miniature En Poudre Pratique” (Practical Powder Miniature) where we find three and a half minutes worth of slow placed almost waltzing picks, low-key reverb hover, and a few more wailing/ sour points. The album plays out with the just over eleven minutes of “Emprunté A La Transparence D’une Forêt Sans Rose” (Borrowed From The Transparency Of A Forest Without Rose) which is all about sourly hazing-yet oddly warming clusters of note strums and string hovers- managing to feel both awkwardly fragile-yet- at the same time strangely heartfelt too.
All in all Pieces Of Apparatus offers up a good selection of Mr Gérard decidedly unique take on guitar-based improv. Let hope the release leads to more folk hearing his work, as there is no doubt he has a very one-off and largely worthy take on the improv, which I know will appeal to those looking for something a little different.”