Matthieu Donarier | Eve Risser | Karsten Hochapfel | Toma Gouband Bestiaire #01 | Explorations

BMCCD304 2022

Stories woven about the observation of living creatures form the basis for the series Bestiarie by French saxophonist Matthieu Donarier, and the first album in it, Explorations. In this release, shining exponents of European jazz join forces, pooling their skills and personal experiences, to give listeners a thought-provoking and also liberating experience. One of the greatest strengths of this album is that it gives space to instinctive music-making and soaring imagination: Bestiaire draws horizons, moves mountains and ignites illuminations, it blows mists and creates a bustling animal world.


Matthieu Donarier – tenor saxophone, clarinet 
Eve Risser – piano, prepared piano 
Karsten Hochapfel – cello
Toma Gouband – drums, stones, plants

About the album

Compositions: Matthieu Donarier

Recorded at BMC Studio, Budapest on 6-8 August, 2021
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Viktor Szabó

Matthieu Donarier plays D’Addario reeds and mouthpieces.

Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature

Producer: László Gőz
Co-produced by Hopscotch 
Label manager: Tamás Bognár


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3500 HUF 11 EUR

Matthieu Donarier: Bestiaire #01 | Explorations

01 Arcs 2:50
02 Field - At Dawn 4:54
03 Bon Voyage 4:44
04 Exploration #01 - Night Camp 3:56
05 Restless Spin 3.37
06 Field - At Dusk 3:44
07 Drafted 1:45
08 Exploration #02 - Firelight 4.38
09 Thin Ice 5:22
10 Exploration #03 - Wide Sky 4:06
11 Cairns 4:15
Total time 43:51

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners

It’s a game without end. Without end for humankind. Wanting to see under the surface. The surface of water, ice sheets, wanting to poke your head through the celestial vault. In short, wanting to surpass the order of nature. Now, we know full well today, corrosion is the fate of everything that humans embark on an encounter with. The game of surpassing the natural order should, then, remain a vain wish. Unless, perhaps, we saddle it with a supplementary rule. Let’s call it story-telling, prospecting, or reconstitution.
Choose your camp, dear reader. Matthieu Donarier has  chosen his. The music of Explorations, and by extension that of the grander project Bestiaire, combines these three solutions in one single gesture. Storytelling, prospecting, and reconstitution merge in narrative. Naturally, Matthieu is a composer and actor, a saxophonist and clarinettist, but here, he is even more. Here, he is the definitive narrator of his music.
With his quartet, he makes music whose surface is ever-inventive and self-renewing, so that it can be hollowed, pierced, or better still, burrowed into by the listener. A listener who sets out, mobile and eager, on the map traced by this CD.
We know full well that these days there is little left to be invented. Eve Risser, Karsten Hochapfel and Toma Gouband don’t waste time wondering about novelty, but keep an eye on where the narrative is going.
For sure, this is true for the path of each of them. A  confirmed dreamer, the pianist-poet Eve Risser is on familiar terms with space. In Bestiaire, she draws  horizons, opens up mountains, and allows light and fog to billow up, teeming with animalistic life. We hear it from on high, we imagine an eye trained on this musical world, floating far off on the horizon, and bathing this CD in hundreds of waterfalls. For a long time, as a pianist she has been an expert of the great expanse. The expanse of her native Vosges, revealed in a solo, in the recent Après un rêve, in a trio with Benjamin Duboc and Edward  Perraud, in En Corps, and also in a larger group of musicians, with the Red and White Desert Orchestra, a nonett merging folk traditions (Mali, Burkina) and  contemporary writing. She sums things up: ‘One hand on the groove, the other on the spirit, and the feet for the party.’
For Karsten Hochapfel, too, the party is part of the craft. The cellist, with a tone close to the Canterbury school, makes narration his own stamping ground. An impressionistic but accurate tale, that he spins  alongside Sylvaine Hélary, in his recent trio [Uns], on stage with Carolyn Carlson, or with Naïssam Jalal and his band Rhythms of Resistance. Resistance can be made to rhyme with trance, vernacular versions of which are practised by the cellist/guitarist in  Archetypal Syndicate where Hochapfel joined forces with Paul Wacrenier and  Sven Clerx. Syndicat is prosaically partial to the resonance and the acoustic nuances of which Bestiaire bears the  perfect mark. On this CD, Hochapfel keeps watch over the fire. It’s the column, the pillar, the founding tree. From his warm, minimalist, and infallible inner chant is born a communal ceremony, an echo chamber for the ensemble where each of the three musicians-cum-artistes comes to play dance and acrobatics in sound.
These agile and impatient movements, at work in Bestiaire, are what Toma Gouband makes concrete. The drummer constantly works in different rhythmic layers, at an intersection of tempos, cycles, and with the energy that is released from combining them. His strength derives from a craft  nourished on self-negation and lively intuition, and Gouband is an architect of the live. On his tambours, stones, and branches, mathematical truths and lines are traced out; they allow hidden forces to surge in the  silences, making all the more organic a music crafted in the instant, in corners and cracks. Music that he explores, practises, and recomposes in company with Evan Parker, Benoit Delbecq (Courants des vents, PSI Records, 2021), with Antonin-Tri Hoang and also with Eve Risser, in the band Ensemble ensemble. The music created by Toma Gouband displaces the idea of territory to float the idea of a universal imagination.
A story everyone knows. The story of a village, or of a man who sets off, is very banal, for sure. But precisely because it is so terribly common, in the sense of being a shared treasure, it is magnificent. Choosing narrative routes over those of beauty supplies ammunition for an imagination broad in aspect. And broad indeed are the traces left by the eleven tracks imagined by the quartet. Being able to link the written and the instinctive, the learned and the popular, this CD is a rare gift these days. If only because it is the shared work of musicians who possess the capacity of all humans to be moved by a landsape. Without being wary of the familiar side of the landscape, which will touch your heart. Here, that’s what it is about. This music, lively and organic, plunges your head below the surface, to a miniature epiphany full of emotion.

Guillaume Malvoisin
Translated by Richard Robinson

Bestiaire is one of my recent music projects. It’s a project that took some time to conceive, and one that I hope to be able to continue in the future, so much did the partners  surrounding me fill the venture with passion. The musical writing is conceived in order to be polymorphous, allowing for a large number of instrumentations. All manner of  duos, trios, and quartets are quite capable of playing this multi-faceted repertoire.
This first album, Explorations, is something like a point of departure for a future discography, and also the point of arrival that marks the end of a stage, because we have already played seven or eight different versions of this Bestiaire in concert.
Everything started from a fiction, a fantasy deriving from observation of real life: I built this Bestiaire almost accidentally, based on the creation of a personality. I needed to think of someone and to watch them take action, move, live, and search for something. I am no writer, far from it, and still less a novelist, but here I attempt to deliver some extracts from the short story that led me to write Bestiaire. I named the man Russell Twang. A man who explores living things. A naturalist. An ethologist, we would say today.
Explorations focuses more on the gesture of this man than on the object of his research: his confrontation with the external world in all its immensity, and the feeling of  solitude that sometimes flows from this, more than his fascination with the life of termites or springtails.
So it’s a question of a naturalist leaving his research laboratory and finding himself in the morning in a bivouac in an icy valley, struggling to make fire, and marvelling at miniscule creatures, and the crystalline structures that ice creates at dawn. A man that records his research and  sketches, all the time walking alone for miles and miles, sleeping fitfully under breathtaking starlit skies, in an immense region that doesn’t give a damn about him. A vast, spherical immensity that for that matter cares little whether anyone is there to observe it or not. That is the starting point for these Explorations.

Matthieu Donarier
(September, 2021)
Translated by Richard Robinson

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