Stef Gijssels, The Free Jazz Collective (05/01/2019) *****
"Truth be told, I think I'm getting addicted to this wonderful album. And it is even more amazing because it's performed by two musicians whom I'd never heard of before. Pak Yan Lau is 'part of the Brussels underground crowd' and Lionel Malric is a French keyboardist 'working in many contemporary rock, fusion and folk genres'.

The two pianists met in June 2014, without any plans or specific goals other than to create music together. They put the two pianos (one 1/2 queue Erard 121 from 1903, and one from 1908), face to face, put some mikes in the right places, made the necessary preparations on the strings, and then this fabulous album ended up as the result. I guess the two of them realised that they had something of true musical value.

Their approach is totally open, yet extremely tight in terms of interaction. Sometimes AMM comes to mind when the sound is minimalist, sometimes Eve Risser when it turns hypnotic, but these are just references for a music that defies semantics and categories. Both pianists are great sonic sculptors, producing strange and intense and dramatic sounds on the first track, menacing scrapings on the thirty-second long second track, both acting as a suite-like introduction to the long "Mount Tune", which creates an intense but subdued rhythm with chime-like sounds and sparse keyboard notes that gradually evolve into a rich, dense and dark mystery, full of deep rumblings, industrial pounding, dramatic emphasis and maddening repetitiveness on one single high-pitched tone. The next track, "Lhotse, Nuptse ou Lhaotse" is slow and enigmatic, with almost flutelike sounds shimmering over a light and sparkling background.

The B-side starts with the dark "Angel's Hair To Pull", with muted notes played over a non-descript eery groundtone, evolving suite-like into the clarity of the next track - "Shredded Tears Make Misty Clouds" - which is built around two single notes functioning like chords, and which invite other sounds to accompany them, gradually expanding into a tapestry of intense harmonic beauty. The album ends with the mysterious "Le Baleines Du Negoyou", again a piece full of question marks but with a resonating beauty that is equalled or created by its strangeness.

The amazing thing about the performance is its inherent lyricism and harmonic beauty, even if most of the times it's even hard to grasp that the sounds are produced by pianos, and then by how many. Despite its exploratory nature, the music's emotional power is direct and intense. It's a wonderful illustration of visionary music that leaves all concepts behind to go to a new place, as yet unheard. And that place is incredibly fascinating and attractive."

Vif Focus (14/03/2019)
"Deux pianistes improvisent sept titres construits sur les mêmes principes: des cordes tirées, frappées ou pincées sur un mode répétitif (mais loin des canons de la musique du même nom), dont l'évolution dans le lent foisonnement des sons se voit parfois renforcée par l'ostinato d'une touche de clavier. Les deux instruments -identifiés avec un brin de provocation vu la nature des sons produits, comme étant des demi-queues Erard datant de 1903 et 1908- sont joués simultanément, rendant impossible à déterminer ce qui revient, dans la construction de cette grande arche sonore, à Pak Yan Lau ou Lionel Malric. Recommandé aux amateurs de musique improvisée radicale ou autres intrépides explorateurs sonores."

Raphaël Benoit, Citizenjazz France (24/02/2019)
"Pak Yan Lau et Lionel Malric n'ont rien prémédité, si ce n'est une rencontre, éphémère et confidentielle, au printemps 2014. Des micros ont été branchés au dessus de deux pianos préparés, et la magie de cet instant a pu être capturée. L'idée d'un disque émerge, et il faudra attendre la fin de l'année 2018 pour que celui-ci paraisse chez el NEGOCITO Records.

Après son Solo pour 227 cordes, le pianiste français convie donc une autre pianiste, figure de la scène expérimentale bruxelloise, à ce Duo pour 454 Chordes. Pak Yan Lau est une exploratrice du tout petit. Sa démarche consiste à chercher l'extraordinaire dans l'ordinaire et pour se faire ses projets sont multiples. Active au sein de Going, groupe bruxellois aux grooves électriques et rythmes syncopés, de Stills, duo expérimental avec la saxophoniste Audrey Lauro, sur les photographies de Ian Dykmans - qui signe d'ailleurs la pochette de ce Duo pour 454 Chordes -, elle compose également pour la danse, le théâtre d'ombres et les documentaires.

Pour Lionel Malric, le palais idéal du facteur de piano demeure ce demi-queue Erard de 1908. Celui pour qui la recherche du son exact est une obsession semble trouver chez sa coéquipière belge une vraie complice. A l'écoute de ce moment totalement imprévu et improvisé on se dit qu'en effet, ces deux-là étaient faits pour se rencontrer. Qu'une telle justesse soit née sur l'instant est tout simplement stupéfiant. Les sons coulent et semblent aller chercher toujours plus en profondeur. De cette immersion au centre de la terre, nous parvient la bande-son de ce qui ressemble à une expédition spéléologique. Alors on se laisse glisser dans cet inconnu, comme on tombe sous le charme d'un poème dont les mots trouvent leur écrin, quelque part, en nous."

Ken Waxman, Jazzword (01/02/2019)
"Dual piano meetings have a checkered history in the improvised music world. Although innovators such as Satoko Fujii and Keith Tippett have experimented notably with the form, the instruments' orientation towards harmony and away from abstraction have defeated others efforts. Two piano duos, one Belgian and one French, have found a way out of the conundrum by hewing to contrasts in keyboard preparation and musical direction.

Lionel Malric, who often plays with Brice Soniano, moves between notated and improvised sounds, while Pak Yan Lau has introduced her experiments with toy pianos to gigs with Peter Jacquemyn and Susana Santos Silva among others. Although all four play standard pianos here, Lau's and Malric's are prepared with implements.

More attuned to what can be scrapped against and plucked from stopped strings, Duo Pour 454 Chordes presents a broader palate for innovations over the course of seven more equally timed selections. Ring modulator like gongs, slaps and buzzes and even the suggestion that a metal comb is grooming the tightly-wound strings build up the kinetic interface with unexpected asides frequently on show. A track such as "lhotse, nuptse ou lhaotse" for instance is a sequence of whistles mixed with harsh buzzes sweeping in such a fashion as to produce maximum vibrato. In contrast, "shredded tears make misty clouds (on a winter day without jackets and gloves)" is more overcast, as high-pitched shrills from one keyboard meet up with processional chording from the other, with additional rasps reverberating from knife-like scratches on inner piano strings. Eventually repetative clatter and clanks from both players build up to culminate in metronomic swing. Thicker and harder syncopation characterizes "angel's hair to pull", with one player popping what sounds like mallet driven percussion onto the stopped keys and the other rummages inside to create zither like plucks that add up to obtuse swing. With such theme and variation extensions throughout, the conclusive "les baleines du negoiou" suggests a realized instance of the earlier duets, wrapping up the syncopated scrapes across the sound field to make dynamic connection.

Paired piano prowess prepared or pristine allows a person to pick a preference without problem."