Occasionally there are releases that arrive in my inbox that through you out of the loop that you are in. One such one is this album by Passepartout Duo called “Vis-à-Vis” which was released on the Chinese label / art company AnyOne who also released their “Olafsfjorður” 10″ release in December, 2018. Passepartout Duo are pianist Nicoletta Favari and percussionist Christopher Salvito. The describe their work as “Making music that escapes categorisation, the duo’s ongoing travel around the world informs the multi-disciplinary collaborations, instrumental compositions, and evocative music videos that constitute their body of work.”
The album is divided into two pieces “Heartwood” and “Vis-à-Vis” each of which has four sections, with the digital release having two complete versions of each piece. The press release states:
“Combining spellbinding musical rituals, introspective lamentations, and otherworldly ambience, Passepartout Duo’s first full length album Vis-à-Vis is inspired by a spirited year of travels and encounters.
Making use of a portable set of instruments designed and built by the duo out of scrap wood and metal found on the streets of Geneva (in addition to keyboards, synths, and percussion), the group premiered the music during a month-long train journey from Switzerland to China.
The album contains two pieces that spring from material of the same origin, evolving, reshuffling and realigning through the extensive use of hocket techniques and metric modulations. Mirroring one another, the two included tracks fill each side of the LP without pause, conveying a patchwork of prismatic timbres underpinned by a tightly woven rhythmic fabric.”
It is hard to describe the pieces on the album. Percussive is a word that comes to mind, while still not entirely conveying the music. Electronic also pops up, but again is a limited term. When you read that the duo is consists of piano and percussion it can lead you to a certain idea of what you feel the music with sound like. Instantly discard any of those thoughts. Descriptors like experimental, post classical, avant garde and free form music are more appropriate as the duo certainly like to push the boundaries of sound from piece to piece or within the same piece like on the track “Vis-à-Vis” (Section 3)”. You get the feeling that Falvari and Salvito would be suited to provide a soundtrack to a form abstract avant garde theatre piece. The music has elements of Asian percussive music as much as does in experimental sound art and electronica.
The two pieces have a different feel to them in their theme. The four pieces that make up “Heartwood” initially have a more electronic ambient feel which opens with Section one before changing in the middle of Section two into more mechanical shapes, glitches and pulses. The duo hit their rhythmical peak on Section 3 with off kilter rhythms that form the body of this hypnotic piece. To describe the overall feeling of such percussive music is quite different when it comes to Passepartout Duo . The sounds generated feel like their are created on a round hollowed out instrument resulting in a different tone than if you were hearing on an instrument that is solid. There is also an organic quality to the pieces due to the nature of them originating from mostly everyday sources. I know the majority of this review has focused on the percussive nature of the pieces and not to downplay the importance of Favari’s contribution, the rhythmic nature of the music tends to take the focus of the listener. As evidenced on “Vis-à-Vis (Section 4)” her contribution is noted with her dronal tones as is her gentle contributions to “Heartwood (Section 1)”.
At the end of the album is continuous mixes of the two pieces which is a wise decision as while the tracks do glide into each other, making one whole piece tends to make it flow better and removes any of the separation of the parts of the pieces. It accentuates the totality of the pieces rather than treat them like separate pieces of music.
“Vis-à-Vis” is a release that would those who are searching for something that is pushing the envelope on what they currently listening to. It is available on Lp and Digital.