Created in 1993, Chamæleo Vulgaris is a band having oscillated between two and ten musicians, before being resolved, as initially, as a duet : Frederick Galiay plays the bass and Jean-Sébastien Mariage the guitar (few members were B. Denzler et G. Roggi, F. Vaillant, H. Koch, H. Poulsen, M. Collignon, O. Benoit, D. Ashour…).
Both amplifiers face each other, both musicians are in the center, the public goshawk. The principle of the installation is to establish the most direct contact between the gesture and the sound, the string and the loudspeaker. The electric sound is an organic, acoustic matter in the full sense : guitar, bass and amplifiers (without any addition of pedals of effects or digital electronics), are not separated, but are the same instrument.
The sound limits of the instrumentarium are deliberately repelled, its ambitus is widened. The sound is bitter, full, precise. The dichotomy suited between improvisation and composition is considered as invalid: Chamæleo Vulgaris composes spontaneously, real time, sound frescoes where the moment is an urgency, and the time construction.
After "Dans la Chair" (1997), "Ouverture facile" (1999), "Les Falaises", "Toter Hirsch" (2000), "Inversus Doxa" (2001) and "Rebut" (2003), a new project is just recorded: "Reset", witch, after a sound recording break, many concerts, and a consequent number of parallel projects, is a restart of a work which reaches its almost twenty years.
Mike Wood / MusicEmissions
Since 1993, bassist Frederick Galaiy and guitarist Jean-Sebastien Mariage have explored the uses and sounds of their electric instruments and amplifiers in as immediate and natural an environment as possible. As Chamaeleo Vulgaris, the duo use minimalism and tone, feedback and resonance, to tell their tale. Recorded in Paris in 2001, live and without effects pedals and with the musicians sitting facing each other along with their amplifiers, “Reset” celebrates the duo’s intimate approach to their instruments, an improvisational interplay in which naturally generated sounds act as a third member. The audience normally would sit around the musicians, creating not only intimacy but other acoustic opportunities.
“Pūjā” opens the eleven song set with humble fanfare. Meditative, sparse and metallic, it announces the environment the duo are creating, without completely showing all their cards. After such a seemingly passive opening, “Skhêma” announces its single note boldly, and various fitful, agitated gestures, that give the impression of cymbals but are again organic to the instruments and amps. ”Pshat,” the longest track at just over thirteen minutes, paces itself through silence with deliberate tones that sound like argumentative birds or dueling wine corks. “Boo Murgel” follows. It is minimal but chaotic and assaultive, an explosion of feedback-and-string-conjured demons. As an example of the blending of the various ideas explored, “Yoni” is an exercise in sounds, both loud and soft, sustained and muted. ”Tabula Rasa” and “Drash” end the set with more silence than sound, more echo than statement, creating a somber but bright hymn-like feel.
“Reset” is not easy listening, but it ought to sound familiar. By building off of natural acoustics and sounds generated by the nearness of their instruments and amps to each other, Chamaeleo Vulgaris merely work with the natural sounds of the spaces they inhabit, however briefly. What music are you missing in your daily routine?
Ken Waxman - Jazzword.com
Organizing notable string duets can be a challenging affair, what with the necessity of producing all sonic coloration from vibrating wires. The task is made doubly risky when the players involved eschew time keeping and melodies for experimental sessions…
The Paris-based improvisers who operate as Chamaeleo Vulgaris overcome the string section drawbacks, by first of all using the electric versions of their instruments: electric guitar in the case of Jean-Sébastien Mariage and electric bass for Frederick Galiay. Also as card-carrying microtonalists – Mariage is a members of the French-Swiss quintet Hubbub and Galiay has played with different Hubbubers as well as German saxophonist Daniel Erdmann and Belgian trumpeter Bart Marris – both use their string sets for sound processing a lot more than producing narratives...
Textural variance is also on the menu of the two Parisians’ Chamaeleo Vulgaris. Although parceled out among 11 tracks, the pieces actually run right into each other as they would in a club situation, with barely a pause between tunes. Mariage’s and Galiay’s aural dance takes in many arrangements from tones that are circumspect, blurry and barely-there to gargantuan, near-cinematic explosions offering conspicuous quivers from each instrument, processed and amplified with electronics. Two related tracks such as “Remez” and “Chod” unroll with wavering pulses and drones making up the backdrop with the bassist creating descending, thickening strums and the guitarist string-snapping chord formations that lead him into Derek Bailey territory. Verbalized nonsense syllables lead to dual broken-octave textures that seems to have been created by Mariage strumming his strings forcefully with his amp turned off and pedantic resonations from the bass strings which are likely hand-heel smacked. When both stop pitch-sliding the drone from Galiay’s create a background ostinato upon which narrowed guitar picking is illuminated.
More quick-thinking team work is evident on the affiliated “Pshat” and “Boo Murgel” as the multiphonic outpouring take on acoustic and electronic properties. While oscillated clatter and buzz appears pushed by motor drives and circular angled tones, Mariage ferociously hammers on his strings at the same time as angled tremolo pulses come from Galiay’s. Climaxing with a sequence that mates guttural slides against unyielding material, reverberating hinge creaks wrapped in flanges and friction, the second piece dissolves into pregnant silence, but not before the grinds have been intercut with slurred fingering from the guitarist and foreshortened bowing on the top of the bass strings.
String synthesis can make a memorable impression as these discs demonstrate, with the proviso than this creativity exhibited can be expressed acoustically, electronically or with a combination of the two methods.