Ensemble 0 is a group dedicated to playing original compositions and those by other living composers, whose membership changes from project to project. The three founding members are Joël Merah, Stéphane Garin, and Sylvain Chauveau, who live in France, Spain, and Belgium, respectively; recently a Belgian contingent has formed around Chauveau, and it is they who perform on “plays 8 compositions”, with contributions from Florent Garnier, Jean-François Brohée, Thomas Jean Henri, Antoine Pasqualini, and Maxime Wathieu. The album’s drily descriptive title is mirrored by those of the comprising eight compositions themselves, each of which simply states who played what and the duration of the recording — e.g. ‘Florent plays glockenspiel & chimes, Sylvain plays hapi drum & glockenspiel, JF plays ebows and it lasts 1:51’.
Listeners familiar with previous Ensemble 0 albums such as “Soñando” and “Umarete Wa Mita Keredo” will immediately recognise the chiming melodic riffs on glockenspiel and acoustic guitar that form the basis of most of “plays eight compositions”. The second piece’s steadily plucked guitar over a constant metallophone note sounds particularly familiar, right down to the switch to a more dissonant harmony half way through. However, this turns out to be the only moment of real dissonance or complex harmony on the album. Instead, many of the pieces are structured around lulling major key riffs or drones, repeated for an extended duration. For example, the sixth piece, performed on two glockenspiels, chimes, ebows, and modular synth, sustains a fairly rapid, yet gentle single-chord ostinatos for around eight-and-a-half minutes, building momentum slightly with the introduction of quiet tapping and syncopated rhythms before returning to a steadier, less urgent pace. The final piece’s long harmonium drone, adding and removing warm blankets of sound, forms a bucolic and untroubled ending to the album.
Compared with previous Ensemble 0 work, “plays 8 compositions” offers fewer surprises: rarely heard are the dazzling brightness and intricacy of “Soñando”, or the quiet, succinct night-time beauty of “Umarete Wa Mita Keredo”. However, the use of extended durations and warm drones help make it the most idyllic, soothing album to appear under the Ensemble 0 moniker thus far. This is one for those quiet evenings after a stressful day, full of calming, hypnotic gentleness.[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1243147245 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small track=2319408407]