Francisco Meirino                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Anthems For Unsuccessful Winners

MAIANDROS  with Antoine Chessex & Jérôme Noetinger

Antoine Chessex, Francisco Meirino, Jérôme Noetinger

LP - Editions Cave 12 - C12 A 08, 

released April 24, 2022

Side A : « Cocyte & Phlégéthon » 19:50

Side B :  « Tunnel » 17:20

Testimony to the first encounter of the trio during a concert given at the cave12 on the 28.10.2020, on the same evening of the new Covid announcements which brought on a re-confinement in France, and eve to a six-month long shutdown of cultural places in Switzerland. A concert from which we emerged staggering and with burning ears due to the ongoing crisis surrounding us. A masterful sonic performance. Before silence.

     Drawing from the dense and intense sound material of the evening, Francisco Meirino carried out a work of mixing and cutting, thus releasing an account of it, conceived for vinyl support and domestic use, an auditory result with a fascinating tension/frame.

     Swirling field recordings, urban/mechanical sounds, ghostly radio, cannibal revoxian magnetic tape, unrecognizable saxophone chants from hell, synthesizer manipulations, intermingle and merge into a sonic flow of pure permanent tension. An uncompromising and hallucinating sound journey of the very first order. A captivating back-and-forth, rich and spiralling between different levels of listening, filled with recognizable or unrecognizable sound materials and disturbing textures à la perfectly mastered dynamics, on a knife edge of abyss & time. And with, on the album, a simply gargantuan, corrosive, and overwhelming B-side!

Antoine Chessex: Tenor saxophone, amplifier, electronics

Francisco Meirino: Modular synthesizer, contact microphone and transducer

Jérôme Noetinger: Revox B77, electronics

Live recording on 28.10.2020 at cave12

Sound engineering: Benjamin Ephise

Editing and mastering: Francisco Meirino

Cut: Frédéric Alstadt at Studio Angström

Cover design: Xavier Robel + David Mamie

Production: cave12


In Touching Extremes

Maiandros, eloquently described as a “masterful sonic performance before silence” by the liners, should be approached with a cool head and, most crucially, finely tuned nervous system in order to gauge its effectiveness. Dare we say brutal effectiveness in this situation. It was recorded on October 28, 2020, on the eve of one of the numerous Covid-enforced closing periods, in a way symbolizing the need to communicate the mute anguish experienced by too many people during the last three years, while also reminding that we (still) have a chance to express ourselves.

With Jérôme Noetinger‘s Revoxes adding grotesque musique-concrete shades and subhuman deformations to the synthetic and intelligently noisy emanations of Francisco Meirino, who later structured in the studio the raw material obtained from the live set, the trio’s electroacoustic apparatus has obvious analog inclinations, efficiently enhanced by field recordings and radio revenants. This is demonstrated on “Cocyte & Phlégéthon” with sound elements between colloidal and rebellious, but not really rabid. Antoine Chessex‘s processed sax and electronics soar down out and into the mix, literally forming chemtrails of ill drones among the confusion of bizarre overlays and alterations.

The composition on the second side of the LP, aptly titled “Tunnel,” involuntarily portrays, quite explicitly, the collection of unsettling feelings supplied by modern existence. The usage of misshapen voices is complemented by a larger degree of distortion inside the sound mass’s monolithic appearance, rather insistent in its cyclicality. We can distinguish bloodcurdling screams in the midst of an oppressive mixture, along with whips (at least, that’s what I think they are), and other hues that don’t necessarily suggest blue skies of hope. In the end, the horrible dream is instantly destroyed by stillness. However, one is well aware that there will be plenty more.


In The New Noise

Maiandros is a testimony, refined and distilled in retrospect, to the meeting of three great personalities of the European impro-noise scene. The lintel of the trio, also from the post-productive and exquisitely technical point of view, is Francisco Meirino, musician, sound designer, electro-acoustic "thinker" of Swiss origin. Alongside him we find Jérôme Noetinger, French shaman of magnetic tape, active for decades and promulgator of a certain oblique use of the Revox reel-to-reel recorder (a use shared by Valerio Tricoli, Sec_ and others) and Antoine Chessex, a multifaceted artist, also Swiss, who moves on the borderline between noise, deconstruction, drone, sound art and sound politics, here as an "extended" saxophonist.

The record consists of two distinct parts, both physically and aesthetically, and is derived, as mentioned above, from raw sound material from a live performance held in October 2020 at cave12 (physical venue and record label) in Geneva. "Cocyte & Phlegethon" is a fine amalgamation of diverse sonic contributions, often difficult to attribute to one protagonist rather than the other. Pulsating synthesizer landscapes mingle with the distant voices of an urban setting, then rarefy and give way to light percussive saxophone vocalizations. It is in this constant change that emerges, on the one hand, the technical and aesthetic competence of Meirino, a wise composer capable of enhancing certain passages, specific frequencies; on the other hand, the ghost of the epiphany of improvisation, intangible, unattainable as posthumous listeners, but certainly present. This is a crucial point that Maiandros allows us to explore: the radicality of the improvised act is such in the moment it is experienced synchronously. When the listening is asynchronous, dilated in time, perhaps fragmented into multiple moments, the communion of ritual dissolves to give way to the communicative skill of the medium, of the witness. Needless to say, how both sides of this work are effective in giving us a snapshot of a moment (perhaps) not experienced.

"Tunnel," side B of the disc, takes this whole dynamic to extremes, catapulting us violently into the wall of sound evoked at cave12. The fine aesthetic choices of side A are brutally annihilated. There is only room for acid feedback, vocals that become saxophone cries, ripped and tortured tapes, telluric vibrations at the limits of the audible. To be listened to at a suitable volume to magnify the experience.

Finally, the choice of name is not surprising: Maiandros is the Greek deity regulator of rivers, of flow and, why not, also of that "stream" so much sought after by those who throw themselves into the eternal present of improvisation, where nothing is static, everything in a perpetual balance beyond the reach of language and logic.

There is no denying that such an unstructured narrative of these forty minutes of sound can be hostile or disorienting. However, when the ear overcomes the need for synthesis, for classification, and embraces the whole picture, that is where the urgency of the act emerges, so pervasive, so all-encompassing.

Translated with (free version)


In Musique Machine

Order and chaos. These two opposing organizing principles do much to characterize what awaits listeners on either side of Maiandros, a heavily cut-up recording of a live concert given just before the outset of the pandemic in 2020. The idea of mixing field recordings and live documents together was occasioned by the lack of “real” concerts and events cancelled throughout the world, and the results move very left of the double genres that make up Maiandros: free jazz and electronic improvisation. Staggering correspondences are achieved between the frequencies emitted by acoustic instrumentation and their electric doubles –  synthesizers and reel-to-reel tape machines.

The moods are also entirely antithetical to one another. On B side of the record, “Tunnel,” there is a low drone that haunts the peripatetic movements of tone and bodies. On side A, the reverse is true, a collage of random blurts, and the distinct sound of someone walking, perhaps offstage?. On both tracks, there is a distant, empty nexus of spaces, an absence both actual and virtual, around which chatter and carefully-edited sources converge, neither, in the end, holding sway. Real-time experience, its gentle sweep of situated listening, is the product of this release, more grounded and measured than any place in the world right now.

Fans of both free improvisation and deep listening will rejoice in the miasmic fog of reality; not the one we so often refer to, but on the reel of the phonograph. Very highly recommended!. 


Still in Musique Machine, different review.

Free improvisation trio Antoine Chessex, Francisco Meirino and Jérôme Noetinger played an unruly, noisy live performance on the eve of the resumption of lockdown in France, October 28th, 2020.  Straddling the worlds of harsh noise, electronic avant garde and free jazz, the intuitively structured cut-up collage found on this brings a surprisingly classic industrial energy, taking me back to 80's Merzbow cassettes and groups like Borbetomagus.

With a large variety of timbres and sounds, it's difficult to pick out the functions of the individual members of the trio.  Sun Ra-esque flurries of scalar saxophone mimic the contours of the heavily distorted analog electronic textures, which sound mostly created through tape manipulation or pedals, though there are also metallic clanks and the revving of motors.   This raucous call and response that lasts for the first several minutes, for an intro that recalls Pierre Henry or Throbbing Gristle.  Resonant filter sweeps and sputtering modulation, like one might hear in Berlin School ambient or musique concrete, bring the classic energy of upper atmospheric and space travel.

As time passes, the pace slows and grim subterranean drones emerge, with the latter half of Side A spent with a backdrop of thick silence and distant 'bumps in the attic'.  Overall, the progression of the sounds is whimsical, without much of a particular direction beyond the simple pursuit of interesting timbres.  That said, the group passes through numerous natural changes in pacing and density, and frequently changes the central timbres making up the sound.

The lull engulfing the second half of side A is broken when side B introduces a mammoth distorted guitar, a single high gain pitch ringing out throughout the venue, almost overpowering compared to the subtle vagueries of the other elements.  Instead of droning in a comfortable manner, the guitar becomes a dissonant, anxiety ridden tone cluster by the 4th minute, seeming to bend upward in an eternal shepherd's tone.  The piece continues with greater density than side A, as numerous other sounds strike a dissonant 'harmony' with the underlying guitar noise, creating the impression of numerous animals bleating together as a chorus.  Fans of free jazz should be familiar with this kind of cathartic dispellation of anxiety.

This album is well paced and diverse for an improvisatory disk, always searching for new tones and approaches.  Staunchly opposed to familiarity and traditional use of instrumentation, this group invites you to simply absorb the texture they have created, and let it massage the ear.  I enjoy many of the tones they have created, particularly those of the analog electronics, though I feel that overall the group would benefit from a bit more directedness and specific interplay.  The guitar dominated second side feels mundane compared to the ambiguous variety present at the album's beginning.


In Freejazz blog By William Rossi

Sometimes it's nice to have nothing to hold on to.

When you think about it, even the most adventurous free jazz and free improvisation often use the same basic language as more "accessible" music, enough vocabulary for the uninitiated to be able to at least make out a couple of words and maybe piece its meaning together. There's nothing bad about this of course and it's important for a musician to be aware and respectful of each genre's tradition and rules, if only to better break them, but as this release's title suggests (in Greek mythology Maiandros was a god and patron of the river by the same name) you need to surrender to the flow and allow this album to carry you into unknown and unrecognizable territory.

Of the three musicians on this release the only one I knew what to expect from was Francisco Meirino, fierce experimentalist and very important voice in the noise/improv scene with countless collaborations under his belt that I won't bore you with by listing but I do strongly recommend you check out the rest of his discography if you like this album. Chessex and Noetinger both bring a lot to the table, namely magnetic tape, saxophone and amplifiers, even though the trio is in such lockstep that they sound like a single, complete entity.

The first piece Cocyte & Phlégéthon (two of the rivers encircling Hades) is a true work of art and a stunning musical achievement: you are greeted by samples, field recordings and electronics that slowly build into a dizzying and seasick crescendo. The thing that first struck me was the mixing and the great use of the stereo field that really helps immerse you into the music. The other thing that impressed me tremendously is how expertly the samples get manipulated, with heavy use of EQ-ing, time stretching and other wizardry I can't even describe: you might hear something that you could swear is a saxophone only for it to sound like a swarm of flies a second later, voices that transform into drones, samples that almost sound like chords. 

After about 5 or 6 minutes of listening I realized how lost I'd gotten into this alien soundscape. There was no structure, no rhythm, no conventional instrument to anchor me and I'd just drifted with the flow, trying to keep track of the sounds and wondering if I was really hearing a sax or if it was just a sample processed with absolute precision; the track keeps you on your toes and forces you to constantly second-guess yourself.

A quick look at the lineup will clear up any doubt one might have about the instrumentation but not having read it before and having no prior knowledge made for a better experience, like hearing a completely new language for the first time. It's truly incredible how almost indescribable this first piece is. It defies expectations and will take you out of your comfort zone, because there's no comfort to be found here.

The second track Tunnel is a little more controversial in my mind. In something that sounds a lot like Sunn O))) meets Merzbow the track revolves around a heavily distorted guitar that acts as the bedrock for the samples, field recordings and synth to thrive and build. After such an abstract fist track I can see why the trio chose to go for a (slightly) more conventional sound palette and structure for this one but it's also a shame that the second half of the album abandons the completely alien feeling that accompanied the listener up to this point. There are good arguments for both points of view and no answer is the correct one but I'm in the camp of those who'd wish the album had kept the same evanescence throughout. The piece is still fantastic and I think a great many people could like it more than the first one and, ultimately, it's Chessex, Meirino and Noetinger who have the last laugh: after checking the credits I can confirm that even though I was 100% sure about it there's no guitar to be found throughout the album. Even when I was sure I'd managed to peer into the trio's music they pulled the rug out from under me yet again.

A fantastic offering from this trio and a great exercise in learning how to let go of preconceived notions and expectations and just swim through ups and downs, moments of abstract quiet and ear-shattering explosions, two very different yet complementary sides. I'm so glad I gave this album a listen and it's been on rotation since, something about its elusiveness keeps me coming back to it over and over.