The most recent release of Witxes - the sound project of Maxime Vavasseur - ‘Sorcery/Geography’, produces music that seems almost impenetrable. This isn’t, as one may first imagine, due to the musical content itself, which encompasses elements of Vavasseur’s past releases (such as ‘Scrawls 01’’s distorted, feedbacking guitar ambience) as well as free jazz (thanks to Christopher Honeyman on Double Bass, Pierre- Loup Mollard on Tenor Saxophone and Fabien Mysak on Percussion) and an almost neo-classical sense of arrangement. Rather, the impenetrable nature of the music becomes apparent when one attempts to coalesce the album as a whole into one idea, or loosely categorise it at all in order to convey it to a non-listener - an issue that could place Vavasseur in either the category of a genius, bringing music back to only those that listen to it, or shadow this release in a certain sense of failure.
Even Vavasseur describes the music as ‘schizophrenic’ on his website, before leading the listener on a journey that seems to combine Salvador Dali’s imagination and vision within a piece of epic prose: and the listener is listening to the entire thing. This otherworldly air certainly allows it to fit with the whimsical, slightly mystic image that French record label ‘Humanist Records’ - on which ‘Sorcery/Geography’ was released on May 8th - exudes.
As such, this album is one that will polarise opinion, as either being too ‘try hard’ in its approach, or simply to be taken as it comes, because deep down, almost all people like an occasional dose of mysticism. It is the latter of these two that will hopefully prevail amongst Witxes listeners, because, otherworldly airs aside, this is a record that shows Vavasseur’s compositional skill ever on the increase. Opening track ‘Unlocation’ begins with Vavasseur’s signature layers of feedback and bass-swollen noise, before suddenly harkening in his new musical attainments with the thrashing free jazz stylings of aforementioned guest musicians Christopher Honeypot, Pierre-Loup Mollard and Fabien Mysak, this then breaking into a tender, Jon Porras-style acoustic guitar piece, over layers of low-voltage noise - all in the space of five minutes. Whilst this reads on paper like a musician who is still searching for a direction, and is gazing down every musical alley trying to find it, Vavasseur somehow makes this work without ever seeming labored in his approach - everything that happens in this release simply ‘happens’, suddenly enough to being surprising, yet not breaking from the direction the music was heading in anyway.
The idea of ‘singular music’ is one that Witxes seems to embody. Tracks span from glitchy, low frequency beats accompanied by guitar scratches (‘The Reason’) to the ominous organ lines of ‘Misscience’, followed by ‘Dunes of Steel’ - a track that starts with sounds that make it fit into Luke Younger’s back catalogue, or even amongst the likes of Throbbing Gristle (albeit in one of their less violent moods) before orchestral waves seep through layers of filters, and take the sound in a completely new, yet somehow ‘together’ direction yet again. This is topped off with closing track ‘No Sorcerer of Mine’, a delicate acoustic track that culminates in the only traditionally ‘sung’ vocals of the entire album, almost a ‘thankyou’ from Vavasseur for listening to the sounds of his world.
The sonic palette being drawn upon in this release is eclectic, yet has a solid base in darkened musical spaces - a move that not only saves the release from being naught more than a collection of individual tracks that could be from different artists, but a sign of the compositional elegance that makes Witxes’ newest release as truly remarkable as it is.
Review by Max Hampshire