Unusually for this genre, the press release on Histoires d’histoire is sparse — a simple list of titles, durations, dates and credits. There’s no written rationale or post-justification with heavy use of adjectives — the music will justify itself. And it really does.
It’s a collection of long, expansive and ambitious avantgarde classical pieces that combine ‘proper’ modern classical in the style of Ligeti or Bartók with a range of more Eastern-sounding percussive instrumentation, and gentle and occasional use of post-production, re-processing and resampling at unexpected moments. The histories being squared here are not purely Western, not purely any tradition, perhaps a history from a universe parallel to our own.
Music Of Another Present Era is the main work, in five distinct and individually named parts. After the warm overture of Marsyas’ Melodies, Shango’s Funkiness is a percussive workout, at times sounding like an improvised drum workshop descending into either confusion or ennui before repeatedly recovering. Shortest piece Entr’acte is the most Ligeti-esque, bursts of long and then short string sustains flirting with cacophony, segueing into Air of The Rainbow Robe and Feathered Skirt which has a similar attitude with a broader, more operatic palette. It evolves further as The Cosmic Circle Dance treats the same ingredients with an extra spark of spontaneity, before twisting into a kind of bizarre alt-jazz in the final third — an obtuse way to wrap up.
Two further long pieces, each a few years old, fill the CD almost to its brim. The eighteen-minute BeBop Baghdad is, despite the name, practically prog rock — long noodling guitar notes playing over sporadic percussion, like a kind of subdued and Eastern-influenced Yes or Robert Fripp piece in parts. The sixteen-minute Show Tunes in Samarian Starlight is similarly adventurous, but with the central instrument switched from Maurizio Grandinetti’s electric guitar to Łukasz Gothszalk’s layered-up B-flat trumpet, bringing proceedings back into the weirder suburbs of out-there jazz.
It’s an extensive 80-minute journey through a whole heap of ideas, sounds and moods, a real patchwork quilt of organic ideas arriving and departing with plenty of energy and a hint of frivolity. That playfulness and slight shortage of coherence disempowers it somewhat from being a really ‘wow’-inducing listening experience, but it’s a very out-there listen.