Greg Davis and Sebastien Roux: Paquet Surprise

Paquet Surprise's cover (“surprise package”) displays an open box liberating a cornucopian universe of plants, insects, and animals, an apt metaphor for this collaboration between Vermont-based Greg Davis and Parisian (and IRCAM affiliate) Sebastien Roux. Their explorative excursion through nine oft-connecting pieces encompasses stylistic multitudes: electroacoustic soundscaping, drones, folk songs, vocal pop, field recordings, musique concrète, and digital processing.

Representative of the album's mercurial character, “To See the Wonderful World” merges folk romp, Beach Boys harmonies, drones, Reichian wave patterns, and field sounds (the gloopy plunk of rocks dropped in water) in a single song. Elsewhere, the pair fashions peaceful meditations (“Air Castle,” “Daybreak”) and breezy pop (“I Never Met Her”) while “Good Decision” augments Ovalesque ripples with vocals (“And now we are alone together”) before exiting in ear-splitting noise. Natural sounds (crickets and thunderous waves in “Sea Grasses and Blue Sea”) appear alongside becalmed weaves of kalimba, recorder, and organ (“I Am Waiting (For December)”). At almost fourteen minutes, “Tidal Pool” develops leisurely, with first electronic noises and then acoustic guitars, percussion, and organ cumulatively gathering force over insistent lapping rhythms; eventually, water sounds emerge, suggesting that the piece could be interpreted as a sonic evocation of aqueous life-forms at play.

Notwithstanding the acoustic guitars one expects to encounter on a Greg Davis recording, solo or otherwise, the pair's instrumentation reads like a prog-lover's dream—gong, autoharp, violin, farfisa organ, bowed glockenspiel, vibraphone, kalimba, toy instruments, recorder, and 'double mijwiz'—even if the compositions themselves evidence little trace of prog pomposity. On the captivating Paquet Surprise, Davis and Roux filter ambrosial pop and folk sonorities through the prism of bold experimental sensibilities.

October 2005