Working the sweet spot where noise communication decisively rubs up against textural experimentation are the verdant improvisations that make up Plant, the new LP from Rimouski-based electric bassist Éric Normand and Australian alto saxophonist and bass flautist Jim Denley. Don’t be fooled by the title, though. Nothing here is the aural equivalent of a pastoral landscape painting. The timbres are undoubtedly post-industrial, with agrarian echoes replaced by the drone and clang of pseudo-machines.

This is first noticeable on “zygomatic brief/cottontails,” in which tremolo patterning from Normand’s instrument quickly approximates the flowing consistency of an assembly line, albeit with enough discordant crackles and throbbing drones to make efficiency experts cringe. Like a factory safety rep attempting to regularize excess, Denley’s controlled circular breathing and capricious mouth-and-tongue motions cut through hints of grinding monotony to reach a climax of literal whistle-blowing in the penultimate minutes. From that point on, like appropriate material injected into a mould, Denley’s reed bites and split tones mute Normand’s repetitive string flanges for an exciting vibrating finale.
Slightly longer, “angiospermed Y font/bamboo boxers” adds the textures from juddering string strokes and wood whaps to solid whistling and buzzing, figuratively appending processing and granular synthesis to stretch the interface still further. The result suggests contorted signals from outer space have been injected into this earth-bound mix of hiss and harmonies. Additionally, distinctive vocal mumbles and string thumb tapping from the bassist and upper register trills from the saxophonist confirm the terrestrial location of the improvisations—or at least the musicians—with low-pitched puffs pushed from the flute defining the ending.
Plant may preserve an unconventional duet, but musical skill, daring and instrumental command make it as alluring as any well kept garden.