Impossibility in its Purest Form


Sebastian Lexer - piano+ / Eddie Prévost - percussion / Seymour Wright - sax

1. Triliniar ? 16:46
2. Triliniar ? 17:15
3. Triliniar ? 13:46
4. Impossibility in its Purest Form 23:26

MRCD82, matchless recordings, 2012

reviews:
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Dan Sorrells, Free Jazz, July 2012 (http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/sebastian-lexer-seymour-wright-eddie.html)

Dragging philosophy and theory into album reviews can be the ultimate obscurist tactic, a way to side-step the difficulties of discussing the actual substance of music. But there can be occasions for pondering theory, especially when it deeply informs the way a musician approaches their work.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to consider Eddie Prévost an “academic” musician, and he often keeps like-minded company. He’s a lucid thinker when it comes to experimental music, and participants in his workshops over the years have also developed an interest in the broader philosophical implications of their music. One of these, pianist Sebastian Lexer, keeps returning to political philosopher Giorgio Agamben in a journal article on improvisation: “the greatness of human potentiality is measured in the abyss of human impotentiality.” Or, what separates us from the beasts is our ability to not do, to be free not to actualize any given potential, to choose the path that isn’t inevitable.

Improvisation is a super-concentrated series of potentialities, and choosing to act or not to act on different possible responses is the improviser’s most basic preoccupation. (Really, the human being’s most basic preoccupation!) As visceral as improvisation often seems, it’s a considered process, not mere instinctual reaction. These decisions are shaped by many factors, some musicians aren’t even conscious of. But potentials are artificially limited in a lot of music. As Prévost hints at in the liner notes of Impossibility in its Purest Form, a musician’s range of choices can be dramatically collapsed by the notes on a page or the demands of a chord progression. If it seems like I’m rambling, bear with me—this is all important when faced with the music on Impossibility. Prévost makes his point plainly: this is not music about what should happen next, it’s music about what could happen next. It’s a small bit of semantics that opens up the incredible gulf between what you find in popular music and the almost alien-sounding investigations of Impossibility.

So am I being a bit of a hypocrite, avoiding the music by talking about the theory? Not purposely. Impossibility is an album that’s focused on pitch relationships, resonance (both inside of instruments and the performance space), and the fractured harmonics of feedback. Prévost sticks to bowed cymbals, while saxophonist Seymour Wright summons both grating, granulated noise and tones that are inhumanly pure, like sine waves. As abstract as these two can sound, the real odd-man-out is Lexer, with his mind-bending piano+ system. Lexer has utterly reinvented the piano as an improvising instrument, outfitting it with a variety of strategically-placed microphones and using various elements of its acoustic sound—pitch, volume, sound density, etc.—as triggers in a sensitive, responsive computer program that he wrote himself. The results are neither piano nor electronics, a very mysterious, organic soundworld that’s intimately tied to the physical act of playing piano, even though the source material is often hopelessly obscured. There’s really little else like it on the scene.

The album seamlessly morphs through all of the duo combinations before arriving at a lengthy conclusion with all three players. As the music progresses, these improvisers seem acutely aware of the philosophies they discuss in their writings. Not that they’re making a concerted effort to sound like the actualization of some theory, or that they’re trying not to sound like a particular style of music—only that they all have internalized a certain stance towards music that works very much against the grain of what is familiar. It’s music that masks reference, gesture, instrumentation. It sounds alien not because it’s mechanical and inhuman, but precisely because it embodies the very human ability to shed the forces and influences that point back to humanity itself. There’s no paradox here; we can both select and reject our own potential paths.

Impossibility in its Purest Form is a battle against knee-jerk reaction, against cliché, against rote repetition and imitation. In his article, Lexer points out that there’s a certain integrity that goes along with the evaluative process of free improvisation. Moment to moment, there’s a responsibility to at least consider what’s novel or unfamiliar.

Is Impossibility tough to listen to at times? There’s no doubt about that. There are no quick payoffs here. Instead, there are many layers to puzzle over, and lots of questions raised by different improvisational decisions. Our potentials are often rushed, guided, even forced into easy channels by cultural and social conventions. What happens if we try to stave off some of this process, to give a split-second’s thought to “what’s next” and whether it’s somewhere we’ve already been before?

Impossibility in its Purest Form makes an honest attempt at tackling such questions. It’s not as ponderous as it seems. Really, it’s searching, exciting stuff.

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Nomination for the The Liminal prize 2012 (http://www.theliminal.co.uk/2012/09/the-uranus-music-prize-2012/)

2012 has been something of a landmark year for the percussionist Eddie Prévost – and not just because it saw him turn 70. While his Meetings With Remarkable Saxophonists series showed him reaching back to post-bop roots (and sounding like he was having a lot of fun in doing so), other albums gave the lie to any notion that he was solely in reflective mode, revealing a musician continuing to press forward, and to explore new sonic spaces. On Impossibility In Its Purest Form, the trio of Prévost with prepared pianist Lexer and saxophonist Wright sound like they are working within the confines of the listener’s own cranium. Like craftsmen, they gently prepare and scrape at those bony surfaces, filling gaps, adding minimal embellishment. The more open-minded will find the restrictiveness paradoxically liberating, the trio ultimately carving out a door to a whole world of colour, shade and texture.

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Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear, 10 May 2012 (http://www.thewatchfulear.com/?p=7190)

I think I have written here before about how I consider the duo of Seymour Wright and Sebastian Lexer to be the nearest thing we have, besides of course the Prévost/Tilbury duo, to a continuation of the spirit, sound and approach of AMM. All of the elements are there. They have each spent more than a decade working weekly with Eddie Prévost at the London improvisation workshop. Lexer studied with John Tilbury. Both have played relatively recently with Keith Rowe, and Wright is currently working on a written history/evaluation of the early years of AMM. Crucially though, besides these links they just play with the feel of AMM running through their music. This isn’t to say that the duo do not have their own voices or have arrived where they are at only because of the above mentioned factors, and I have no doubt that much of the continuum of the AMM spirit I hear in their work is a figment of my overactive imagination, but certainly there is something there, and something very wonderful.

The AMM link is amplified on this new CD, named Impossibility in its Purest Form as they are joined by Prévost. There are four pieces here, the three possible duo formations and then a final twenty-three minute trio recording. The instrumentation used is as you would expect, Lexer utilising his piano+ set-up, Prévost on percussion and Wright alto saxophone. This is, I might venture to say, the most organic music I can possibly imagine. It certainly sounds exactly how you think it might, with Prévost bowing metal percussion exactly how he usually does, Wright shifting between harshly textured horn blasts and lighter purring and rattling sounds and Lexer’s sound unmistakeable for all its variety, shifting from glowing tones to the enormous crashes of his duo with Prévost. This CD isn’t about trying to rediscover improvisation or some other major avant grade advance though, this music is about three people, their relationship, their in fact very close musical relationship, and how the trio not only intertwine through their playing but how they work together to unravel problems, to resolve musical situations. This music is organic in that few musical relationship safe this close that that problem solving is quite so immediate and deft as it is here. There are of course no pre-determined ideas at work here. Recorded at the venue of the weekly improv workshop, there can be no other possibility than the there musicians just turning up and playing, intending to record the results. I doubt that there were many other takes done than the four tracks we hear here, and I am certain there has been no editing or the like involved. Much improvisation is fluid and organic, but this might just be as immaculate an example as can be found.

Its gorgeous stuff. Some will hate Prévost’s bowed sounds, but he seems toned down here, letting the music breathe more than usual maybe, even though in the opening duo with Wright his sounds are bold and full of character. Lexer continues to amaze me with the fragility of his sound, the definition he achieves once he has chosen where he wants to go, and the drama, oh the drama of his playing, the sudden shifts from light and airy to cavernous, dark oppression. Wright’s sound falls closer to Prévost, more singularly expressive, sharp lines drawn, soft whispers one minute to hard, sore rasps torn across the middle of the music the next. The individual sounds matter not though. Its an added bonus that the three sets of sounds work nicely together and that Lexer’s in particular catch my ear so much. What really matters is the interaction, the tussle between the three, the playfulness, the stubbornness, the anger in the music, the way the trio combine perfectly and yet also push and pull at one another. Its great to listen to music that evokes AMM in such a way, the internal combustion, the struggles and the harmonies. Its different and youthful, and yet somehow full of history.

This is an album of improvised music, no more, no less. The status of the music, its history and its future are not really changed in any way by this CD release. No huge groundbreaking steps can be declared, just small lessons learned by the musicians just as they have been learning from one another for a decade or so. As examples of improvised music go this is a fine one. Its a fascinating, joyful pleasure to listen to it, and you know, on this occasion that is more than enough for me. Innovation is great, finding new ways to make music is great, but then so is listening and revelling in the fruits of what we have already discovered, and Impossibility in its Purest Form is as wonderful opportunity to do that as you are likely to hear this year.

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Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure, June 2012 (http://www.pointofdeparture.org/PoD39/PoD39MoreMoments5.html)

In 1999, percussionist Eddie Prévost began convening an improvisation workshop in London. From its earliest days the pianist Sebastian Lexer and saxophonist Seymour Wright were among its most committed and creative members, and the relationship eventually developed into significant musical partnerships. Impossibility in its Purest Form documents their distinctive approach to improvisation. Wright’s cover art and Prévost’s liner note are both based on the Penrose Triangle, an impossible geometrical formation – a kind of open or mobius triangle found, among other places, in the illusionist art of M.C. Escher. The triangle becomes a metaphor for the group’s practice of improvisation and its “impossibility” as a construct.

There are four pieces here. The first three are duets, representing the three possible duos. Each piece in the series is entitled “Trilinear,” suggesting the absent third musician is somehow part of the work. The fourth and longest work is the full trio playing “Impossibility in its Purest Form.” The improvisatory language is less one of continuous sound than one of continuous attention. Heir to the processes of AMM, the group has a singular attention to detail, creating less a music of texture than one of sustained and elongated events, some of which are sonic abrasions; some of which are near silence.

Each performance begin in nothingness, eventually finds a kind of convergence, then elongates that moment, stretching it in time and space until there is room in one’s awareness for little else. In a sense dauntingly abstract, the work is also visceral, with both Wright (he can sound like a duck without being specifically mimetic) and Prévost exploring harsh reed and bowed metal sounds, in contrast to the refined and unpredictable little sounds that Lexer seems to prefer. That harshness may articulate either the struggle of a music that is made out of nothingness and which will return to it, or the impossibility of the moment and the insistence on its potential for habitation.

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Julien Héraud, Improv Sphere, June 2012 (http://improv-sphere.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/sebastien-lexer-eddie-prevost-seymour.html)

Sebastien Lexer au piano préparé (piano +), Eddie Prévost aux percussions, et Seymour Wright au saxophone alto. Trois duos qui explorent toutes les combinaisons possibles (ma préférée étant Wright/Lexer), et un trio pour fêter tout ça - la plus profonde et la plus réussie de ces quatre pièces à mon avis. Impossibility in its Purest Form, titre qui fait référence au triangle impossible de Penrose (celui qui orne la pochette), cherche la fusion impossible de trois instruments et de trois individualités à travers le son envisagé comme texture.

Dans ses notes, Eddie fait beaucoup référence aux concepts de possibilité ("ce qui va arriver", "ce qui pourrait arriver"), d'impossibilité, d'aptitudes à l'erreur cognitive et perceptive, pour justifier et théoriser sa pratique de l'improvisation et la spontanéité à l’œuvre durant ses improvisations. Comme si chaque improvisation était un plongeon vers l'inconnu. Pourtant, ce qui frappe au premier abord, et ce n'est pas un mal - mais cela remet en cause la spontanéité de ces improvisations -, c'est la continuité et la ressemblance entre chaque duo (d'abord Prévost/Wright, puis Prévost/Lexer et enfin le magnifique Lexer/Wright). Chaque duo, ainsi que le trio, sont principalement constitués de notes très longues, aiguës, riches, pleines d'harmoniques (cymbales et cordes du piano frottées, harmoniques et souffle continu au saxophone). Une même structure linéaire semble conduire chaque pièce vers une exploration de la fusion des timbres, et vers une recherche d'un timbre uniforme entre trois instruments sans rapports les uns avec les autres.

C'est peut-être seulement à partir du duo Lexer/Wright, 'Trilinear ?', et de plus en plus durant le trio qui donne son titre au disque, que le silence trouve sa place, et qu'une part d'inconnu semble à l’œuvre dans l'interaction. Plus le disque avance, moins le terrain semble certain - à l'image des longues et puissantes notes instables de Wright -, des écarts et des reliefs se creusent, des timbres neufs apparaissent, le silence agit comme une texture, les résonances vivent leurs vies, le risque devient prépondérant et le dialogue entre deux ou trois semble effectivement plus spontané et/ou aléatoire parfois.

Je n'avais pas écouté Seymour Wright depuis l'excellent trio avec Keith Rowe et Martin Küchen, et je reste encore assez émerveillé par ses interventions simples mais puissantes, ses notes très serrées qui résonnent dans notre tête pendant des secondes interminables - très bien mises en avant par le piano de Sebastien Lexer. Des textures simples mais inusuelles et inhabituelles, créatives et inventives en somme, tout en étant puissantes et intenses, instables tout étant sûres d'elles.

Mais de manière générale, ce sont les trois musiciens (même si ce sont surtout SW et SL qui m'impressionnent le plus) qui savent faire preuve de créativité dans cette longue exploration de plus d'une heure dix. Une recherche épique avant tout axée sur la texture, des textures souvent simples et minimalistes mais riches et intenses. Des dialogues à deux et à trois très sensibles et attentionnés, où différentes dynamiques sont à l’œuvre, avec ou sans silence, dans une osmose et une fusion souvent impressionnantes. Du beau travail!

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Johan Redin, SoundOfMusic (http://www.soundofmusic.nu/recension/lexer-pr%C3%A9vost-wrightimpossibility-its-purest-form)

I sin renaste form framstår omöjligheten som det mest grumliga och skitiga. Jag är svag för denna oangenäma, opolerade, taggiga, improvisationsmusik som kretsar kring Eddie Prévost och hans workshops i London. Den är öppen på ett sätt som inskränker det mesta som vill bära epitetet fri musik. Här skymtar inte jakten på excentriska tonaliteter eller Cageiansk tystnad. Lexers prepareringar förvandlar pianot till ett slags negativ klangkropp, utan resonans och avogt inställd till allt vad trä heter. Det är glidande, skallrande, metalliska dissonanser som finner sin frände i Wrights nedmonterade, kastrerade, altsaxofon. Prévost närvarar med sin minimalistiska uppsättning: cymbal, stråke och enstaka tom-tom. Det är ett slags filosofiskt system som gått på grund och ädla tistlar slår upp ur vraket.

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Freesilence, March 2013, (http://freesilence.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/sebastian-lexer-eddie-prevost-seymour-wright-impossibility-in-its-purest-form-2012/)

Faut-il encore présenter Eddie Prévost, percussioniste et membre fondateur d’AMM ? Il porte sur ses épaules presque 50 ans de musique improvisée non idiomatique. C’est une sorte de monument vivant en quelque sorte. A l’instar des membres ou ex membres d’AMM encore actifs, chacune de ses prestations, dans la radicalité formelle avec laquelle il approche et déconstruit le concept d’instrument à percussion, ne cesse d’être une source d’émerveillement et d’inspiration.

Pour ce trio – que l’on a pu écouter avec bonheur en février aux Instants Chavirés – Eddie Prévost s’est entouré du saxophoniste Seymour Wright et du pianiste Sebastian Lexer, deux musiciens d’une autre génération, donc, mais probablement marqués de manière indélébile par la musique de leurs glorieux aînés.

Ce disque de 71 minutes se compose de trois duos et d’un final en trio. La musique contenue dans ce CD explore « ce qui pourrait se passer » plutôt que « ce qui va se passer » dans les diverses combinaisons permises – je cite ici les notes de pochette d’Eddie Prévost. Une manière de rendre possible une musique qui ne cherche qu’à exprimer sa potentialité par le biais de ces trois musiciens chamans. C’est ainsi qu’Eddie Prévost explique que le choix du triangle de Penrose comme illustration de la pochette symbolise bien la quête de ces trois musiciens : créer l’impossible.

Chacun des instruments (piano préparé + électronique, saxophone alto et percussions) est ainsi travaillé en dehors des sentiers battus, cherchant l’interaction improbable et la magie des rencontres improvisées, avec une prédilection pour la matière métallique qui compose tout ou partie de chacun de leurs composants.

Cette musique nous invite à considérer que la création peut et doit sortir des conventions, que l’impossible ne l’est peut-être que par les limites que l’on se fixe. Certes, il n’y a rien de bien novateur dans ce message, mais ce trio d’improvisateurs le porte et le transmet à merveille.

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Guillaume Belhomme on le Son du Arisli (http://grisli.canalblog.com/tag/Eddie%20Prevost)

Et si l’idée était celle de s’arrêter une heure ? Sur le bleu du digipack et les tripoutres aux contours noirs qui s’y forment ? Une heure à intégrer de tout son corps un labyrinthe d’Escher avec dans les oreilles les improvisations d’Impossibility in its Purest Form. C'est-à-dire prendre le grand escalier et marcher sans s’arrêter en tenant compte des suggestions de la musique : ici à droite, à gauche plus loin, à moins qu’il ne faille déjà revenir en arrière ?

On connaissait l’indétermination en musique, voici qu’a sonnée l’heure de l’impossibilité – son symbole est-il donc le triangle de Penrose. Un peu plus haut, conseille la première improvisation : Eddie Prévost (percussions) et Seymour Wright (saxophone alto) étirent des notes au maximum de leur possibilité, créent des rythmiques qui vouent au cercle une obsession sans bornes. Après quoi, Prévost et Sebastian Lexer (piano+, pour dire son piano préparé / augmenté) désignent une pièce qui ressemble à un atelier dans lequel on lustre le cuivre et on irrite le bois : à la suite des musiciens, l’auditeur s’y engouffre : l’espace créé des résonances qui le promènent dans une galerie de miroirs déformants. Sorti de là, il faudra suivre le chassé-croisé de Lexer et Wright : folle, leur imagination ne permet pas moins au troisième élément qu’est leur duo de terminer la structure – en musique, rien d’impossible.

Quelques semaines plus tard, le trio enregistrait Impossibility in its Purest Form. A entendre ici, des instruments sous étouffoirs avant que la signalisation mise en place par Wright ne décide de routes bientôt investies par quelques lignes longues, qui interfèrent et résonnent. Une pièce de musique qui, à plat et avec grâce, raconte les trois autres – en musique, rien d’impossible.