Frans de Waard for The Vital Weekly
First we have Frederic Blondy on piano and Thomas Lehn on analogue synthesizer. The latter picks up the sounds produced on the piano with his 'external input' and thus can do real time processing of the sounds using the filters, reverberation, ring modulation and what else such a machine offers. There are two pieces, the first and shortest one is an edit of various bits from a concert in Bourogne with a bit of a recording from Montreuil, whilst the second, title, piece is a straight recording from one concert, save for some minor adjustments. It's interesting to hear what editing could do here. In 'Pooq', things are kept highly 'silent' with just a few careful sounds. It sounds like the music was edited out, certainly if we compare it to 'Obdo', which is a much fuller piece, if not, at times, a noisy piece. The piano is scanned for all sorts of sound possibilities, hitting the keys, the body, the strings and together they weave an endless stream of sounds together, a pairing that goes wonderfully well together. A fine, thought-out work of improvisation.
Julian Cowley for The Wire
Obdo’s two pieces derive from performances at French festivals by pianist Frédéric Blondy and German analogue synthesiser player Thomas Lehn. The bulk of ‘pooq’ was recorded in Bourogne in 2006 and subsequently modified in a process of audio editing that enhanced and added emphasis rather than substantially changing the material. On stage Blondy’s instrument was routed through Lehn’s synthesiser in a way that allowed reciprocal processing and interference to occur. The outcome might have been wild, even chaotic, but the duo prefer a highly restrained, subtle, even austere approach. Sparse, precise tones are tinged with reverb or gently swirled through ring modulation. Their interactive set-up reminds me of a suggestion by philosopher Michel Serres, in his musings on hosts and parasites, that something new arises only “by the injection of chance into the rule, by the introduction of law at the heart of disorder”.
The longer title track was performed at the Actes Temporaires festival in Périgueux and received only minor adjustments later. This piece is far less like a cautious tightrope walk; the interaction is far more explicitly dramatic. Blondy works vigorously with the body of the piano, case and strings as well as keyboard. And Lehn is more intrusive, agitated and sometimes squally. The culmination is explosive.”
Guillaume Tarche for Improjazz
Thomas Lehn (whom we should remember trained as a pianist) and Frédéric Blondy form a duo of interacting keyboards, wires, strings and filters. For not only are the piano sounds treated by the synthesiser, but they themselves feed into and affect the synthesis. The dizzying possibilities of this situation could overwhelm, befuddle or intoxicate the musicians, but happily there’s nothing of that here. It is a drama of tension, of the play of timbres and spaces opening up landscapes which are diffracted and then shattered by delicate excavations or sudden orchestral squalls. For the listener this is a passionate journey through lands which rise up and then shift from moment to moment. On stage too this duo must be quite something.
Rigobert Dittmann, for Bad Alchemy
Blondy knocks, hammers and plucks the keys and strings of the piano, while Lehn feeds his synthesiser with these sounds and manipulates them, although at first rather cautiously. As if Blondy ’s soup was too hot, he carefully blows on it as he ladles it out. Blondy plays mainly single notes which he sometimes lets vibrate and sometimes dampens. The 37-minute title track is much busier. Blondy drags a chain around the inside of the piano, producing dark thunderous tones over which Lehn lays a delicate pulse of popping, hissing sounds which contrast with Blondy’s tones. The concept of ‘piano’ has long since been surpassed. Without any formality Blondy works this relic of bourgeois fancy percussively, noisily and increasingly roughly. This is not unromantic, if the term ‘romantic’ can include the phantom of the opera and corpses in a cellar. Lehn’s moog bubbles, trills and farts rather coursely, even while he keeps his little finger ironically raised. But today who is still embarrassed by or frowns at such things? We just carry on our way, and that’s how it should be.”
Tom Sekowski for GAZ-ETA
Recorded across three dates between 2003 and 2006, duo of pianist Frédéric Blondy and synth manipulator Thomas Lehn holds a lot of potential on their "Obdo" release. It's not often that synth is used alongside the piano, which is why I was turned onto this music in an instant. The fervour inside didn't diminish for a second when I learned the duo didn't simply play their instruments in real time alone. Both instruments were manipulated to give off the sounds included on this disc. Piano sounds that Blondy puts across were manipulated by Lehn's analogue synth's modules. Variety of filters, reverberations and ring modulations were concocted to come up with these rich sounds. To be fair, sounds of the piano were also used as pinnacle control signals that would budge and affect the sounds originating from the synth. To that effect, the first piece "Pooq" is the more serene of the two pieces included. It's as if the musicians were testing the waters, feeling the boundaries. Though their vision is all encompassing, it's not until we arrive at the thirty seven minute title track the duo breaks out of its collective shells and things really start to take shape. Blondy's mostly inside-piano work [tapping on the sides, caressing the strings, moving blocks across strings as well] is key impetus for Lehn to begin his radical work on the synth. Best sections are those when both musicians emulate a flock of squabbling birds, only to be dispersed with stark strikes of ivory keys accompanied with full-fletched glitch-ophony. Except for a few minutes of pure synth noise walls, the duo displays a large tendency for subtlety. It's in the quiet, contemplative moments, that the radical beauty of "Obdo" is found.
Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise
Thinking of this release as a duet between Frédéric Blondy and Thomas Lehn misses the mark completely. First there are the mechanics of the session. Blondy's piano was routed in to external input of Lehn's synth, providing sound sources which were manipulated in real time. At the same time, the input served as control signals that affected the sound synthesis. All of which was refracted back out for Blondy to respond to. Of course the technical setup would be of no consequence if the musicians didn't connect so well. Both have extensive experience working in this space. Blondy is part of the group Hubbub, a quintet that turns two-reed, guitar, piano, and drums instrumentation into a setting for nuanced, chamber-like gradations of micro-details. And Lehn's list of collaborations is mind-boggling. But in each case, he manages to inhabit the sound-space of his partners, from the hyper-kinetic Konk Pack to his participation in Mimeo.
Here, the two musicians mine the electro-acoustic palette of their combined instrument. While the low resonances and ringing sustain of the piano are filtered and fractured, the essence of the acoustic source is always present. Likewise, Lehn's scribbled gestures and jagged textures are picked up by Blondy, with crashing chords, rumbling ostinatos, and percussive work inside the piano. The first piece was assembled by Lehn in the studio from two performances; the second piece is a live recording. Both are built around shadings of voicings and gesture along with the careful balance of dynamics and densities. Calligraphic electronics dart across piano thunder. Dark chords are turned in on themselves into roaring shards. Bright, sparely-voiced notes from the upper octaves are dropped against crackles and scratched synth. Particularly on the more extended length of the live title piece, the improvisation balances sections of spacious calm with heated squall with a thoughtful sense of overall form. This new label has been putting out a series of strong releases since its launch in late 2007. This is one of their strongest yet.
Alfio Castorina, Kathodik
The music is spectacularly spectral, for the most part quiet, yet containing an amazing sense of drama and danger, of underlying nervousness and a feeling of uncertainty as to what is lying around the corner. I'd advise you to listen to it in complete darkness as – thanks to the excellent recording – every sound, every gesture has an explosive force. Darkness is the right environment for the mentally dazzling and psychologically grazing effects of a music which tricks and subjugates you, which evokes spirits and causes deep wounds. Desolate shrill sounds, probably the strings of Blondy's piano, introduce the first piece pooq, to which are added Lehn's menacing pulses and strange effects. There are a few moments of stasis in a trembling grey zone, then afterwards everything changes thanks to the pianistic explorations of the Frenchman with his rich vocabulary of extended techniques. Accents and note-clusters that are almost Feldmanesque, runs and dissonant cadences like an insistent punctuation to the miraculous work of the synthesiser which measures out and projects long iridescent shadows. Great, but the best is still to come with the long title track, which draws us into a strange game of mirrors. Everything is undefined and shifting; bizarre forms of life seem to materialise out of nothing, at first quietly, then noisily and threateningly, as if coming to reclaim the space of the living. The synthesiser moves round restlessly, creating obstacles and little traps, while the piano seems to be an almost physical presence intent on dismantling and reassembling everything. There are moments when the tension rages furiously and everything seems about to collapse, saturating the nerves and emotions of the listener who finds relief only in the final moments of the piece. A mad and desolate rush towards the void which swallows and destroys everything, leaving us completely dumbstruck. Spectacular.
Le Quan Ninh, Revue et Corrigée
Those who know the work of Frédéric Blondy and Thomas Lehn might expect a meeting of the two to be a kind of free-for-all in which speed is the primary parameter. But they will be surprised. In this recording there are no lyrical flights of fancy, nor shows of extravagant dexterity, as if both musicians are keen to avoid being caricatured. What is unique about this recording is the way in which the piano sounds are fed into the analogue synthesiser in such a way that they are not only manipulated but also themselves interfere with the process of synthesis. And while certainly active, the musicians let these technical processes play themselves out and be heard. At times they just listen to the (sometimes minute) transformations that they are effecting upon each other. We are invited not so much to listen to a dialogue as to explore the interior of a third space, the space of that almost immobile moment when the activity necessary for its survival is found in its deepest recesses. So this music takes time to build up and accumulate structures, which it then tramples down (though without hotheadedness) that same territory where it has become entrenched. Nonetheless there is a certain disequilibrium between the two musicians, with Thomas Lehn taking the initiative more as regards the sudden ruptures and other surprises which give life to the duo's music. This cd will certainly delight all those like me, who love to be surprised by the richness of a soundworld which is both willed into being and allowed to run its course, and also moved by the musicianship of the playing (whether it is fast and furious or not).
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Another fine one. On the first of two tracks the tendency is quiet (though often quite sharp), with Blondy vaguely evoking Tilbury in Cage/gamelan mode and Lehn contributing lovely mists, hammers and chirps. Much of the second piece is bumpier, more rambunctious, but sounds just as carefully considered. Wonderful, spatial clattering and dense, insane chittering in the second portion of the "suite". Excellent job.
José Francisco Tapiz, Tomajazz
"pooq is composed from a number of recordings made between 2003 and 2006. Across its thirteen minutes both musicians explore the possibilities of the piano as a total instrument, including of course the use and manipulation of its inside as part of the sonic palette, mixing and transforming its sounds both organically and electronically. However silence appears as a central element within the piece. The result is thirteen minutes that achieve moments of almost paradoxical beauty. In contrast obdo is from the start much more frenetic than pooq. Howevere at its conclusion the intensity of the duo decreases and it picks up again the tranquil mood of the first track. Seen in its totality obdo crerates across its 50 minutes a work which has a symmetry and logic underlying its almost overwhelming unfolding."
Henrik Kaldahl, Jazznet Denmark
"A unique mix of acoustic and electronic sounds made by two of Europe's brightest improvisers. The pianist Frédéric Blondy's play is transformed through the sound magician Thomas Lehn's analogue synthesizer, with extremely exciting results. The sound on these recordings is very measured and controlled, but always with a certain tension lurking under the surface. The music on this CD is not what you hear every day; it is very special and a demanding experience to listen through, but the result is excellent and exciting."
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
"The basic method used by Blondy and Lehn for "Obdo" is feeding the analogue synthesizer's external input with the audio signal of the piano, thus obtaining what the liners call a "cross-effecting real time sound processing". This means that what would normally constitute the typical features of a piano note - attack, sustain, decay, the dampened metallic qualities of the hammer-on-string processes - are heavily disfigured. OK, not always so massively, but certainly in a most unusual way. Apparently marginal phenomena, semi-distracted touches or quasi casual hits are captured by the modulating network of Lehn's machine, portraying the worrying presence of some intruder who creeps behind your relaxed posture with silently threatening attitude, content with letting its blurred image be reflected in the mirror, the listener wide-eyed and open-eared to understand what's going on. There's no attempt to our security, though, the music mostly belonging to the "discomfort zone" where the instrumental lexicon privileges morphologies previously unheard of, totally excluding rosiness in favour of jangling impingements and unquiet modifications of the surrounding reality. The whole remaining on the "subdued" side for large chunks of the album, which only towards the conclusion of the title track brings out a quantity of repressed nervousness, the kind of "boiling inside" rage that ill-minded individuals disguise with affected smiles and fake goodness while intent in unsettling the life of someone perceived as superior to them. Lehn and Blondy seem to sonically portray exactly that feeling at the end, their conversation finally erupting in harsh contrasts and noisier parallelisms, enough to let us declare this CD as the most "concrete" - at least partially - in the already significant history of Simon Reynell's imprint. Fascinating stuff, like in all the other chapters."
Ken Waxman, Musicworks
"Audio editing and shading expand the canvas on which French pianist Frédéric Blondy and German analogue synthesizer player Thomas Lehn aurally paint resonating variations on many themes here. Although timbres from Blondy's keyboard are routed through the mechanism of Lehn's contraption, the resulting shading, dynamics and spectralism still depend on the acoustic prowess and control of both musicians.
Seamlessly melding a fragment of an earlier concert into "Pooq", the performance, is sonically multi-hued. Stopping and slapping his instrument's internal strings, Blondy also alternates external key-picking and note-chiming. Eventually his emphasis on crystalline single notes is spatially underscored by Lehn's triggered pulsations and driven vibrations.
Recorded in real time, the three-part "Obdo" evenly matches contributions from the two, with neither destabilizing the concordance. Mallet-smacked and hand-stopped piano strings are amplified by the sound of marbles rolling within the piano mechanism, as concurrent synthesizer waves break up crackling static with hocketing tremolo tones.
Eventually Blondy's multi-note improvisations reach a throbbing climax, seemingly scraping the finish off the strings as he plays. As these aggressive, high-frequency licks radiate outwards from the soundboard, Lehn's chirping flanges and intermittent bursts of static solidify into fuzzy, sideband expansions. Joining with the pianist's contrapuntal licks they subside into a satisfying diminuendo.
Each player has notably partnered in the past with such international sound explorers as saxophonist John Butcher and the band Konk Pack (Lehn) or percussionist Lê Quan Ninh and the Hubbub group (Blondy). On Obdo they confirm their mastery of the electro-acoustic duo with keyboards perfected in different centuries."
"Frédéric Blondy és Thomas Lehn kett?se nem siet, nem kapkod: a két zenész hét éve adta els? közös koncertjét, bemutatkozó nagylemezükre mégis egészen mostanáig kellett várni. És ilyenkor szokták mondani: megérte. Megérte, ugyanis a sheffieldi székhely? Another Timbre kiadó nem hogy katalógusának eddigi legizgalmasabb albumát, de könnyen lehet: a 2008-as esztend? egyik legélvezetesebb produkcióját szállította.
A Bordeaux-i születés?, jelenleg Párizsban él? Frédéric Blondy, valamint a fröndenbergi származású Thomas Lehn jól ismert hangszeresei a globális improvizásciós szcénának. Hosszú évek óta koncerteznek, készítenek lemezeket - ám kétségtelen: a mára csak analóg szintetizátorokkal kísérletez? Lehnnek jóval több produkció írható a számlájára. Valóságos zenekarhalmozóként nincs olyan zenész, akivel ne játszott volna. Alkalmi duói és triói mellett talán leginkább a Konk Pack és Keith Rowe MIMEO-jának tagjaként ismert. Érdekesség: legutóbbi (és talán eddigi egyetlen) magyarországi fellépést a szegedi Jate Klubban abszolválta a harsonás Günter Christmann és a nagyb?g?s Alexander Frangenheim társaságában 1998-ban. Frédéric Blondy valamivel fiatalabb tagja a ma vezet? zenei experimentalistáknak. A kilencvenes évek közepe óta koncertezik és készít albumokat kisebb-nagyobb csoportokkal, melyek közül számomra a Hubbub kvintett a legfigyelemreméltóbb.
Az Obdo lemez két darabja három koncertfelvételb?l áll. A rövidebb, Pooq névre keresztelt improvizáció 13 percét két francia fesztivál hanganyagából ollózták össze. Els? blindre talán meglep? lehet, hogy a Bourugne-i és a Montreuil-i koncertet három esztend? választja el egymástól. A szerkesztési elv érdekes, hiszen - bár nem ismerem a teljes koncertfelvételeket - mintha pont a hangsúlyosabb zenei történések estek volna a vágások áldozatául. Ami megmaradt az halk és tétova. A Pooq tehát egy csendesebb darab: Blondy apró és er?tlen neszeket csihol zongorájának belsejéb?l - azaz többször érinti hangszerének bels? húrjait, mint a billenty?ket -, ezeket manipulálja Lehn valós id?ben. A zongora hangjai bizarr kicsengéseket, kifacsart visszhangokat kapnak - Lehn szintetizátora itt kizárólag Blondy zongorájának hangját használja küls? bemeneti jelként.
A korongot uraló Obdo már egy vágatlan, teljes koncertfelvétel, amit 2004 nyarán rögzítettek a Périgueux-i Actes Temporaires fesztiválon. A majd' 40 perces darab bár meglehet?sen nehézkesen indul, végül jóval eseménydúsabb, hangosabb és persze kerekebb, mint az el?z? felvétel. A két zenész itt már nem finomkodik: el?adásmódjuk, illetve a zongora és az analóg szintetizátor hangjai jóval szélesebb spektrumot járnak be - külön utakon. Hiszen Lehn itt már nemcsak Blondy zongorájának bejöv? hangjait modulálja, hanem saját forrású zajokkal is dolgozik. A csend közeli pillanatoktól rövid út vezet a harsány zajig, és vissza. Jóles? csapongás, különös emelkedettség jellemzi a két zenész játékát.
Frédéric Blondy és Thomas Lehn kett?sének produkciója amellett, hogy újabb szemléletes példája a tisztán akusztikus és elektronikus hangszerek ügyes párosításának, jóval több mint érdekes hallgatnivaló. Végre egy biztos kézzel, markánsan meghatározott zenei univerzum, amiben jó (meglepetést?l tátott szájjal) járni-kelni." - Dusted