May 21, 2022
Distant Numbers - Loris Binot, Lê Quan Ninh & Emilie Škrijelj
Label: Eux Sæm
Catalog #: 03
Release Date: Aug 24, 2020
Media: compact disc or digital download
We were drawn to this recording by our long-time interest in the music of Lê Quan Ninh. Of course, one of the joys of following the music of improvisers is their habit to move fluidly between collaborators, which leads to the discovery of new voices. In this case, Distant Numbers served as our introduction to both the pianist Loris Binot and the accordionist Emilie Škrijelj. Aside from the fullness of the reverberations of the surrounded bass drum, we found many things to enjoy in their collaboration. The choice of instrumentation--piano, drum and accordion--is satisfyingly eclectic. We could not remember listening to another trio with this particular combination of instrumentation. We thought about the music of other accordionists, such as Pauline Oliveros and Guy Klucevsek. We could remember ensembles in which Oliveros performed on accordion with piano and drums, but always as part of an ensemble larger than a trio. (See for example, Susie Ibarra's Flower After Flower.) The same can be said of Klucevsek. For us at least, the piano, drum and accordion trio was unprecedented and we were very taken with the result.
Perhaps, because of the manner in which we arrived at the music, we feel that the percussion provides the central structural framework for this abstract music. The prepared piano of Loris Binot responds in time sympathetically, sometimes before, in anticipation of percussion to follow, and sometimes after. Binot generates some sounds, which we associate with vibrating strings and some sounds were extracted by other means from the physical object that we call a piano.
To our ear, the presence of the accordion of Emilie Škrijelj was measured and restrained. At first listen it seemed sparsely present. Upon subsequent listenings, we heard the trembling of the accordion issuing from many corners of the music. Still, each reappearance seemed a welcome reintroduction of friends after too long an absence!
Since we first read the English translation of the book of Lê Quan Ninh, Improvising Freely: The ABC's of an Experience, published by PS Guelph in 2014, whenever we listen to his music, quotes from this book float through our heads and endow the sounds with a meaning that is surely always carried in the notes but which is easier to decipher given the (admittedly oblique) road map provided by Improvising Freely. It seems appropriate therefore to end this short and belated review with a favorite quote.
After every performance, I might as well throw up my hands and shout: "Still nothing!!"...Maybe just the amount of time that passed, a time that lacks the quality of assault or fading away, a simple stretch of collective lived time that gets melded with my perception. So what exactly was I doing during all that time, with sounds? What took hold of me that in turn made me use them, make them appear, state them aloud, and then leave them behind in nothingness? What persuaded me to choose such an unproductive, useless activity?
--Lê Quan Ninh
Improvising Freely: The ABC's of an Experience, trans. Karen Houle, PS Guelph, 2014, p. 63.