Michel Kristof is a composer, experimental guitarist, sitarist and esraj player based in Paris. He is a prolific artist who has released more than 200 recordings and has recorded with Sonny Simmonds, Maki Nakano, Makoto Sato, Julien Palomo, Takami Fujimoto, Wayne Rex, Sufus Hufus, Jay Reeve, Anthony Osborne, Vinnie Paternostro, Thomas Bellier, Simonetta Parisi, & Judith Kan.
Glimpses by Michel Kristof, Ramble Records, 2021 on #neuguitars #blog
And what is it we glimpse, exactly, ever so briefly? A scaffolding against the front of a building conceals window after window after window. Another bland project stands ironically erect against the skies of a blank suburban space (non-space). Are we peering into the windows? Into what lives?
‘What’ (not ‘who’) are ‘they’? There’s something we don’t quite see in this picture. In this music.
Michel Kristof’s music more than hints at the presence of have-nots. Third rate citizens of a non-space, like he is (like I am, like you are). They are the subject of his harrowingly intimate solo works for guitar and amplifier(s), of which dozens have been published over the years.
Now sit back for a second (we’re almost through with the politics of this music). Overturn the perspective. Peer into the outside world, the sun, from those fenced windows. Feel the scaffolding and concrete. Be the scaffolding and concrete. Now you’re into Michel’s Kristof music and frame of mind.
Isolation. How to properly dwell the confines of one’s brains to battle isolation and madness. How to make the most of nothing at all.
Forty seconds in here sound like fourteen, so stifled his treatment of acoustics is. Things that dwindle, expand, like a gunshot in an underground parking lot. Buzz or no buzz, the background reminds us of the artificiality of our experiences. It’s bare. The discourse is bare. What amounts to ’embellishment’ is a reverb that mimics an empty bathroom. Ther’s actually no silence in the lives he describes. Listen closely. The stuffed, ominous rumble of a city that colors your skies at night a sick glow.
Another reviewer wrote Michel Kristof has become a master at not playing the guitar the way you should play guitar (in a good way). I’d like to point he is also a master at not playing the guitar the way people think you should not play the guitar (in a good way). He doesn’t discard, he disregards. Inspiration – not even inspiration, the mere act of making music, recording, is snatched away from oppressive forces. In there, there’s no time to study what others on the ‘scene’ do.
…Now you have between twenty and two-hundred seconds to say it like it is before the rent and other sundry screwed-up items of the have-not life lavish gutter water on your inspiration and send you sick and stumbling into the subway, late for work, no coffee. You know the feeling?…
Don’t be mistaken, those are not haikus: those are smuggled dazibaos of dazzling rage. Like a blinding martial art move, something he probably learnt from Sonny Simmons (whose final guitarist he was). The absence of scope (despair?) – the immediacy (run for your life) – the truth of a moment standing next to no moment (it’s in the can, there’s a listener, you can’t take that from me anymore).
And now – it’s not all that bleak, musically. You can and you will really enjoy the experience. Michel Kristof’s music bears a complex relation to free jazz, hence, jazz. It is informed by noise (Lou Reed, Rudolph Grey are some of his favorite guitar players), but it’s a contemporary, white and urban take on the blues. In the sense Arthur Doyle was blues. It’s just so willingly destitute you won’t recognize it at first. I’m not just talking feeling here, I’m talking traces of Paul Bley, of Cecil Taylor. This is more perceptible in other works of his, with Makoto Sato or as part of Other Matter and United Slaves: when these glimpses are housed in a group setting within a ‘proper’ (but what is ‘proper’?) instrumental environment, there’s no room for doubt. Try to bear that in mind and catch the light-speed disintegration of tunes into the thin air of urgency. The fastest of clusters is still an amalgamation of real notes.
By the time you have read this, the record is probably over. Skip coffee, run to the mall, whatever. Mind the out-of-order elevator and gaping duct trenches on your way out.
released December 3, 2021
Michel Kristof: e. guitar
Sophie Martin: artwork
Palomo Julien: text