This is my first deep immersion into Joëlle Vinciarelli & Eric Lombaert's deeply unconventional "free metal" duo, but I have long been a fan of the pair's noise/drone band La Morte Young (as well as Vinciarelli's repeat collaborations with My Cat is an Alien). Notably, there is absolutely nothing recognizably "metal" about this latest release, as the closest kindred spirits are probably outer limits psychonauts like the LAFMS milieu or Borbetomagus. However, even those signposts are inadequate at conveying how far Talweg have descended into their own personal rabbit hole with this album, as these four pieces feel both unstuck in time and decidedly pagan/occult-inspired (which makes sense, given Vinciarelli's passion for collecting unusual and ancient instruments). Further muddying the waters, this album arguably captures the duo in "soundtrack mode," as two of the pieces are early/rehearsal versions of pieces composed for a Monster Chetwynd exhibition, while a third borrows a nursery rhyme from Marcel Hanoun's "Le Printemps" as its central theme. While "rehearsals for an exhibition soundtrack" admittedly does not sound all that appealing on paper, these recordings are quite compelling in reality, as Des tourments si grands often feels like a remarkably inspired and deeply unconventional stab at outsider free jazz. Fans of Vinciarelli's work with MCIAA will definitely want to investigate this one, as it journeys into similarly alien territory, but the addition of Lombaert's killer drumming takes that aesthetic in a far more explosive and visceral direction.
The album is divided into four separate longform pieces that always extend for at least fifteen minutes of shapeshifting psychotropic magic. Picking a favorite is damn near impossible, as every single piece eventually gets somewhere wonderful, but my current feeling is that the closing "où l'on souffre, des tourments si grands que..." is the highlight that best captures the duo at the height of their powers. It initially calls to mind a duet between a free jazz drummer and an orchestra of demonic air raid sirens, but the howling maelstrom is soon further enhanced by the sing-song nursery rhyme at its heart, resulting in something that sounds like a somnambulant French Vashti Bunyan loopingly intoning the same lines over and over again inside a gnarled extradimensional nightmare. Somehow the piece only gets better from there, as a descending chord progression and a stomping, crashing beat take shape as Vinciarelli unleashes a viscerally feral-sounding trumpet solo. Notably, it is the only piece on the album where I can hear any real trace of the pair's metal inspirations, as it feels like a heavy doom metal jam played on the wrong instruments (coupled with a pointed avoidance of all genre tropes, of course). In short, it rules, but the other three songs all come quite close to scaling similarly lofty heights.
In the opener, for example, Talweg approximate an unholy mash-up of ancient pagan bell ceremony, lysergic aviary, supernaturally possessed music box, and a Siren luring me through an ambient fog towards the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. Elsewhere, "comme une éponge, que l'on plonge" initially kicks off in similar "strangled, uneasily viscous-sounding ceremonial trumpet meets free jazz drumming" territory, but then dissolves into a wonderfully simmering groove of buzzing, psychotropic drones and a skittering, off-kilter beat enlivened with wild, virtuosic fills before reigniting for a gloriously volcanic finale. The remaining piece, "dans un gouffre, plein de soufre," is yet another top-tier mindfuck, gradually evolving from "droning harmonium sea shanty" to "gently undulating ambient/noir-jazz psychedelia" to "roaring extradimensional nightmare storm" en route to an unexpectedly meditative coda that sounds like a train slowly chugging its way through a phantasmagoric landscape of raining crystals. The one caveat, of course, is that this album is quite a challenging, dissonant, and intense ride, but that should be welcome terrain for fans of the duo's other activities and Talweg are extremely fucking good at what they do. It is a real treat to encounter such otherworldly beauty and heady psychedelia delivered with white-knuckled elemental power and masterfully controlled violence.
Sounds can be found here.