Redefining period instruments, Montreal viola da gamba, harmonica and pitch pipes player Pierre-Yves Martel joins two musicians from Geneva, Cyril Bondi on Indian harmonium, objects and pitch pipes plus spinet specialist Christoph Schiller, to create five microtonal improvisations that amplify the in-the-moment concept that tse (which means “here” in a mountain dialect spoken near Geneva) only suggests.
Based around cycles of tremolo drones from the harmonium, the moody performances are narrow but nuanced, since the repetitive outpouring is periodically disrupted by concentrated string plinks or stabs. The extended rustles that make up a track like III have their delicacy challenged when swelling harmonica puffs and concentrated wave-form-like buzzes clamorously dominate the sound field, until that moment when the organ-like extensions give way to string twangs until both expositions dissolve into silence. On other tracks, the group’s minimalist sways and squirms demonstrate similar contradictions and resolutions, as when shrill whistles, peeps, tinkling bells and unexpected reed-like tones create parallel motifs to the underlying ostinato, and then combine for a satisfying flat-line conclusion.
More than background sounds, but never powerful enough to be obnoxiously upfront, the fascination in tse’s presence is how these sounds, designed with understated, overlapping restrictions, continue to hold aural interest during the evolution of each track.