Paris Transatlantic review by Dan Warburton

The Ames Room – BIRD DIES (CF 231)
As I think I mentioned when I reviewed The Ames Room’s debut LP on Monotype a couple of years ago, Jean-Luc Guionnet’s website sorts his considerable discography into various categories – Acousmatique, Dispositifs, Improvisations, Compilations and “jazz”. Yes, that’s “jazz”, lowercase, in inverted commas. Those quotation marks might indicate his reluctance to be labelled as just another jazz saxophonist (though he knows his jazz history as well as anyone I’ve ever met, and I’d argue that Shepp, Lacy and Coleman – two Colemans, in fact, Ornette and Steve – have had a great influence on his playing), but they are certainly appropriate when it comes to discussing his work with Clayton Thomas and Will Guthrie in The Ames Room. For, despite its appearance on a jazz label, Clean Feed, the 46 minutes of Bird Dies (more on the title later) have more in common with noise. It’s worth remembering that one of Guionnet’s first albums under his own name, Axène, inaugurated the Californian noise label Ground Fault, and on a personal note, I recall his near boundless enthusiasm for the Sickness album I Have Become The Disease That Made Me on that late, lamented imprint. Noise, even Wall Noise, is always the same (noisy) and never the same, and there’s the same relentless death drive in the music of The Ames Room. Sure, there’s no shortage of “material”, ideas chewed up and spat out with unbridled intensity, and there are moments where the texture thins slightly, but there’s nothing resembling jazz’s head-solos-head structure, nor the climactic ebb and flow of “traditional” free improv. It’s the aural equivalent of a Pollock action painting or the excremental jouissance of Céline. Is the Bird of the title is a sly reference to Charlie Parker? Maybe. But, if so, more interesting is the tense of the verb that follows: this is no “Bird Is Dead” punky middle finger to Jazz Tradition, but a simple present tense. And despite its hyperactivity, Bird Dies is brutally simple. And present. And tense.

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