We last heard Delphine Dora on her solo piano album, A Stream of Consciousness, and the new album is about as far afield from the former work as can be imagined. No, it’s not Nordic black metal, apologies for underestimating your imagination! The new work on the evocatively titled Wild Silence label is a work of free jazz. Dora is joined here by Paulo Chagas on clarinets and Bruno Duplant on double bass. It’s interesting to note the semantic qualities of the performers’ names: Chagas/clarinet, Duplant/double bass, and the fact that the word “piano” is embedded in Dora’s full name. While we wouldn’t normally mention such things (although we do tend to notice patterns), it’s important here, because free jazz involves free riffing on themes, counter-themes and anti-themes. This exploratory field often wanders off into tangents. So while Dora is also credited with “objects”, we wonder what specifically she has in mind. Is that a washboard on “Mechanics of Dreams”, or is she playing the piano’s innards? More importantly, whatever she and her friends have in mind, will we want to listen?
The answer is yes. Part of the allure is being kept in the dark about these “objects”. A skittering sound passes from speaker to speaker. Paulo tries to coax it out of a corner while Bruno copies its footsteps. Delphine knits the creature a little note coat. The playful nature of the recording continues on subsequent tracks. ”On a Topic of Boredom” addresses its subject with a mentality born of A.D.D. – oh, look, what’s that over there? “Stardust” slings scrapes and scraps. Onion Petals is not the most accessible album around, but neither is it impenetrable. Just don’t expect the melodies to be clear and composed.
The only question that remains is, “If the onion petals are candle lights, then where is the onion?” The answer is clear: the onion is the petals, and the pieces are the whole. The diversity of notes scattered about the floor is evidence of a greater intelligence. The compulsive cleaner would wish to sweep them up and put them in order; this trio would rather grab a batch, throw them in the air, and see where they land the next time – like Cage’s use of the I Ching. Is that an animal eating the notes in the closing minutes of “Toward the End of Autumn”? Well, that’s what you get, you shouldn’t have left them lying around. (Richard Allen)