Viviane Houle, Treize

This is the kind of record that gives free improvisation a bad name.  In place of the passion, beauty and intensity that I associate with Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, AMM and other leading exponents of the genre, what we have here is an album mostly devoid of those qualities.  Academic from the title onwards – “treize” is French for ‘thirteen’ – there are thirteen tracks here, each one a duet between improvising vocalist Viviane Houle and a different musician.  The overall impression is of a series of cerebral voice exercises; it’s no surprise to me that Houle moonlights as a voice teacher when she’s not performing.

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