Saint-Merri occupies a unique space in the Parisian music topography. Tucked away between Centre Georges Pompidou, IRCAM and an array of bistros, the Catholic church hosts contemporary art, music and film events during the week, while Sunday remains reserved for mass. Les Rendez-Vous Contemporaines, run by Babbel Productions, is the church's experimental concert series, with previous guests including Stephen O'Malley and and the Romanian composer Iancu Dumitrescu.
In 2012, Babbel Productions decided to expand the series into a festival, called Crak, which this year celebrated its sixth edition. This year, Crak had a small but dedicated audience, with Saint-Merri's majestic nave filling up with around 3-to-400 devotees on each of the three nights. Compared to Sonic Protest, a likeminded festival that also uses the church, Crak's audience was significantly older. The evening began with an extended solo set by Claire Bergerault, who, using her voice and an accordion, performed a tightrope walk between silence and noise.
Then came Fell, who performed alongside Australian percussionist Will Guthrie. It was an organic collaboration, to the point where Fell's drum samples blended so well with Guthrie's playing it was hard to tell them apart. They focused on textured drones rather than rhythmic patterns, with fluttering oscillators inhabiting the resonating space. While Guthrie coaxed hums from his gamelan instruments, including a collection of gongs, Fell sent tones reverberating around the venue's eight-speaker setup, creating a warm, enveloping cloud of sound. The drones grew louder and louder over time, their power sneaking up on you as they shifted from acoustic reverb to thunderous electronics. The 45 minutes flew by. As soon as the applause faded, Fell slipped away inconspicuously.