Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones + Witxes: Split
While the usual split release sees two artists presenting original material on respective sides of the album, this one by French dark jazz outfits Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones and Witxes mixes things up in an interesting way: in each case, one artist selected a track by the other and created a twenty-minute rework of the material, a strategy that makes for a more collaborative result than the norm. On the A-side, then, we've got the Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones re-imagining Witxes' “The Apparel” (from A Fabric of Beliefs), and on the flip Witxes reworking “Nourrain Quinquet” from Dale Cooper Quartet & the Dictaphones' Quatorze pièces de menaces.
The two acts are certainly complementary creatures, so much so that if one didn't know better one might credit both pieces, despite their differences, to the same artist. Up first, Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones “Le Strategie St Frusquin” covers a lot of noir-ish ground over the course of its twenty-minute run. The extended opening section augments bleating saxophone wail and scabrous guitar textures with a merciless drum-powered plod, the cumulative result blistered, diseased, and not for the faint of heart. Halfway through the piece, the intensity level drops and the beats fall away, allowing for a breathy sax solo to languidly uncoil amidst the smoldering ruins until the deep croon of The Dictaphones' Ronan Mac Erlaine appears like some Sinatra from hell (“Baby is so scared to stay in town / The lights are dim and he's comin' round ...”) to guide the listener home.
After the quiet close of the opening piece, the loud flourish with which Witxes' “Pisces Analogue” begins comes as a jolt. Written, recorded, and mixed in three weeks during the summer of 2014 in Lyon, the purely instrumental setting distances itself from “Le Strategie St Frusquin” in its prominent use of synthesizers. More to the point, the material presents a style that's less dark jazz and more epic synthesizer music of the kind one might encounter on Spectrum Spools or other such label. “Pisces Analogue” isn't a single-dimensional piece, however, but rather one that moves through multiple episodes, some violent and others comparatively peaceful, as it makes its way step-by-step towards its grandiose finale. With field recordings threaded into the mix, the piece fluctuates between harrowing nightmarish episodes and evocative others reminiscent of Popul Vuh during its Aguirre-like prime. Put the split's two sides together and the result is uneasy listening at its best.