With a dichotomous debut that offers intriguing insight into the diverse disciplines of composition and improvisation, My Tiger Side demonstrates how a stripped-down approach focusing on absence as much presence can succeed in wedding these opposing approaches. The album, simply titled 1, starts with 20 minutes of improvised guitar and synth spread across five tracks, and concludes with a six-part ode to the sacrament of Mass that adds a few well-placed voice samples to this minimal palette.
The man behind the moniker is French guitarist, Rémi Saboul, who performs live in solitude ‘to represent the intimacy and personal character’ of his music. This is well reflected across 1, which presents a cohesive atmosphere despite its variety of tones (both instrumental and emotional). After a lulling, minute-long intro, the second track “Botaurus Stellaris in Db Minor” commands attention with its astral and spatial noises, their volume ebbing and flowing with almost jarring precipitousness. The ear is then reeled in to more earthly planes in the self-explanatory “Drone”, before being again cast to the stars in the fourth track. “Rest in Pieces” starts with the sparkling synth sounds of its earlier stellar counterpart, but soon merges this to a solitary guitar mimicking the same refrain in a clean tone, notes now enunciated and reflective – in both senses of the word.
An ethereal segue then guides to the album’s ‘shaped’ Mass centrepiece, appropriately announced by a grandiose organ. These tracks each contain Latin subtitles that guide the listener towards what they convey. “Mass in C Major – Opus 1 – Kyrie” describes the congregation offering a petition and prayer of thanks for God’s mercy, and in the layers of harshly distorted guitars can be discerned desperation and anguish, followed by exultance. In contrast, the Day of Wrath presented in “Mass in C Major – Opus 3 – Dies Irae” shrouds an earlier chord progression of triumph in a cloak of foreboding, with an ominous resolving chord and disquieting sounds of chanting for those whose souls were not permitted deliverance. Such crafted and prominent recycling of phrases across these six tracks does enhance the work’s narrative ambition, although may in time discourage repeat listens due to the speed at which things become very familiar across these mostly short tracks.
1 is an album of bare and subtle musicianship, whose intimacy in a sense contrasts with the voices used to intone that musicianship. The delay- and reverb-drenched guitars in combination with the keys – whether imposing their will as thunderous organ or beguiling from afar as celestial synth, present a vision that is grand, not intimate, in scope. But the overall effect is not confused; rather, a sense is derived of having entered a cathedral – its magnitude and ostentation inspire awe, yet also heighten the very personal sustenance visitors draw from it. (Chris Redfearn)