Info Christian Vasseur – Poèmes Saturniens and Alam 
"Poèmes Saturniens"
by Christian Vasseur
Humming Conch (Conch 002)
 "Questions d'un somnambule"
"Pièce 1"
 "Il y a quelque chose qui m'échappe"
 "Questions d'un somnambule"
 "Questions d'un somnambule"

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fn issue October 2011
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Christian Vasseur is a French guitarist who works with a range of instruments. His work is inspired by impressionist composers like Debussy, as well as more contemporary musicians and progressive rock bands.

Poèmes Saturniens (Conch 002) and Alam (Conch 003) are two of his releases on Humming Conch. Both feature a wide array of stringed instruments: the fourteen string arch lute, flamenca guitar, ten string guitar, and Indian zither all make an appearance. Poèmes Saturniens centres around a main theme, Il y a... which climaxes in the last piece, Il y a quelque chose qui m'échappe. The first piece, Fragments begins with elegant harmonics and a deceptively sanguine sensibility, and then drifts towards the melancholic as the piece evolves, setting the theme for the entire recording, as idiosyncratic moments give way to an overall downcast atmosphere.

While Fragments and Il y a quelque chose qui m'échappe act as the cornerstones of the recording, the third piece, E.A.P. employs a range of dejected harmonics ringing out over contemplative melodies. Confusion reins in the fourth piece, Echappée belle, in which the tempo drifts wildly to-and-fro, with some percussive use of the guitar's body.

Questions d'un somnambule has a similar feeling, with heavier hammer-ons towards the end leading into Epanchement du songe, which uses detuned sounds and later rougher bowed sounds to create almost noise-based timbres. Percussive taps of the instrument's body act as responses to the grinding backwash of sound, using repressed energies culminating in silence. Le rire de Démocrite brings us back to more familiar territory, like an angry Villa Lobos, but with occasional guttural vocal sounds. Alam, released as Conch 003 however it was recorded before Poèmes Saturniens in 1993 and has eleven pieces. Alam is far more conventional than the work on Poèmes Saturniens, as it still draws on fluid arrangements of melancholic motifs, but touches on baroque structures rather than the contemporary. It's a beautiful work for its simplicity and acts as a great introduction to Vasseur's work.

Poèmes Saturniens and Alam are both charming works, with exquisite instrumentation and engaging composition. Poèmes Saturniens has an incredible sense of freedom, while Alam feels more traditional. They feature a wealth of musical directions guided by improvisational intelligence, yet always kept human by Vasseur's occasional humming and exploration of the instrument.

Both these recordings are available from the Humming Conch shop.

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