Magda Mayas and Christine Abdelnour — Myriad (2016, Unsounds)
Pianist Magda Mayas and saxophonist Christine Abdelnour are two of Europe’s most exciting improvisers. Accordingly, this live performance from 2011, released on Andy Moor’s Unsounds, the duo explore a host of textures, volumes, and motifs, resulting in two stellar tracks. Opening with the autumnal “Hyrbid,” Mayas and Abdelnour immerse the listener in a space that is either spatially or mentally remote. One can easily envision this as the auditory phenomena encountered when sitting on a desolate bench in the late afternoon. The piece is tenuous, yet emotive. Abdelnour’s saxophone remains almost painfully restrained. Mayas knocks the piano strings and focuses on every bit of the instrument but the ivories, making for a highly fascinating listen. At around the 11 minute mark, a foggy shroud descends. Mayas slowly introduces some “traditional” playing, while Abdelnour seemingly covers the bell of the sax and begins working through some bits that sounds like the grinding of coffee beans. The final two minutes crescendo into a frightening, horror show-esque conclusion, which dissolves almost as quickly as it appears. The second track, “Cyanide” feels much more mysterious. Abdelnour provides a rhythmic anchor, while Mayas contributes to the atmosphere of the piece, which thematically likens back to the introduction of “Hybrid.” Taken together, the pieces form a strange and slightly surreal sonic daydream. A great work, by two fantastic musicians of international repute.