21 situations

Martin Tétreault, Otomo Yoshihide

… the over-all feeling is one of spontaneous experimentalism. Incursion Music Review, Canada

Recommended. AllMusic, USA

This is the long-anticipated encounter between Martin Tétreault and Otomo Yoshihide, recorded in the CBC studios in Montréal. Witness for yourself the clash of two masterful turntable manipulators, one from Japan, the other from Quebec: two universes, two attitudes and one electro-mechanical encounter around the record player.

The result is a stunning collection of twenty-one improvised “situations” exploring themes such as science fiction, education, jungle, cartoons, and seventeen additional surprise topics, and through which our protagonists explore harsh noise, grooveless needles, mutant scratching… all in the name of vinyl. 21 revolutionary improvisations which deliver on your expectations.

CD (AM 069)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 069
  • 1999
  • UCC 771028106929
  • Total duration: 44:44
  • Jewel case
  • 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
  • 95 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press

Artist’s Recordings: New Sound Spaces

André-Louis Paré, Espace sculpture, no. 59, March 1, 2002

In the tradition of soundeffect music, here are some recordings by artists who use sound as material to be sculpted. In Jean-Pierre Gauthier’s recording, Machines consentantes and Hachures (1999/2000), we hear the sound of mech” anized drums, automated flutes and decoys, vibrating garage sheet metal and quite audible radio interference. This sculptor of homemade instruments occasionally works in tandem with Mirko Sabatini. The Italian drummer plays solo on his CD titled MK. Orchestrin, the fruit of Sabatini’s lengthy research on sound and the workings of his instrument. Michel Tétreault is another sound artist often present in the visual art milieu. One of his many recordings was produced with Japanese artist Yoshihide Otomo. In 21 situations (AM 069), they manipulated turnta” bles in a different way than DJs, creating unusual sounds. Lastly, Jocelyn Robert gives us a genuine sound performance with his recording 20 moments blancs lents created for the twentieth anniversary of Chambre blanche in Quebec City. Here the artist attempts to translate the gallery’s time into sound.


Richard di Santo, Incursion Music Review, June 1, 2001

Released in 1999, Martin Tétrault and Otomo Yoshihide’s 21 situations documents 21 short improvisations for turntables (with and without treatments on the needles and vinyl), sampler and CD. Both Tétrault and Yoshihide are quite well known for both their innovation and daring in the improvisational community, and especially so when it comes to the turntable. Recorded in 1997, these 21 short (never much longer than 4 minutes, but most between 1-2 minutes long) deal with various themes that determine their titles: cartoon, science-fiction, conflagration, chant, jungle, chaos, tension, etc. Satellite, for example, has an eerie cosmic-like sound; cartoon is playful; and chant contains a strange human-made squawking. The mood of this disc is really quite playful, and even though there are some dips into darker themes and sounds, the over-all feeling is one of spontaneous experimentalism. Scratches, scrapings, loops, sharp cut-ups and collage work, grating textures of the needles on treated vinyl, and short glimpses of what the original records may have sounded like are the elements that keep you on your toes throughout the entire recording. Keeping the tracks short is a wonderful exercise for improvisers since it enforces a constraint on their process, an artificial compulsion to compress their language down to its essential elements, charged with meaning and energy. The effects on the listener of this compressed language is another matter, though. An immensely energetic and frantic release, and in spite of the unease it causes in my temperament, it still captures by interest and curiosity.

… the over-all feeling is one of spontaneous experimentalism.


François Couture, AllMusic, March 1, 2001

This encounter between two of the leading turntablists of the avant-garde was meant to be. It happened in Montréal Martin Tétreault’s territory), December 1997. Japanese pioneer Otomo Yoshihide ex Ground Zero performs on turntables, sampler and CDs. Tétreault uses his arsenal of pick-ups, prepared records and prepared needles. They recorded 21 short improvisations (maximum duration: three and a half minutes) on specific themes, ranging from traditional music to cartoon, from science-fiction to education. This working method allowed them to concentrate their efforts on a few selected sound sources for a short period of time. It resulted in sharply focused pieces summarizing the techniques and art of both musicians. Humor is always a key aspect of Tétreault’s work and it is well represented here, especially in Science-fiction where the “spacy” analog synthesizer sounds he dug out are assembled into a melody very close to “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. The listener’s attention has no time to wander off. Recommended.



Marie-Pierre Bionniol, Guitar Part, March 1, 2000

Martin Tétreault, Canadien timide, préfere profiter de sa collaboration avec Otomo Yoshihide, pour scratcher plus que de raison tandis que ne viennent le pertuber que quelgues rares citations. Tétreault, on a pu le voir sur scène, a tendance a jouer au tennis avec des bras de platines, le nez collé au rond central. Cette vision différente de la musique, entre Dee Nasty et Marcel Duchamp, signe ici son plus grand méfait: celui d’envisager autrement l’art de composition. A découvrir, les oreilles curieuses.


Jim Barker, Rubberneck, no. 30, December 1, 1999

21 situations finds Yoshihide on more familiar territory, alongside French-Canadian turntable abuser Tétreault, banging out 21 short, radiofriendly slabs of surface noise, technical detritus and musical dementia. All tracks are under four minutes, and the approach is as varied as the subject matter (e. g. cartoon, machine, tension, science fiction). And it’s not just scratching; those drum sounds you hear from time to time are not samples but the players drumming on the turntables. Familiarity with technology has bred contempt, which has in turn bred imaginahon and adventure. This is gamelan for the 21st Century A fine example of revolutionary improv.

A fine example of revolutionary improv.


Nightwaves, no. 4, November 1, 1999

This recording represents a long anticipated collaboration between two turntable manipulators, one from Québec, the other from Japan. It is a completely improvised work involving noise, needles, scratching and vinyl. Some of the tracks (Spoutnik) do show flashes of atmosphere and mood, yet many seem to be pointless, noisy messes (Debris and Friction).

This work is noise in the truest sense of the word. Convention has been completely disregarded for a totally experimental ethic that you will either enjoy or loathe. 21 situations is comprised of non-musical sonic deconstructions that embraces sound experimentation as the ‘be-all end-all’. Perhaps this album would be more engaging if it wasn’t so left-field and the sound pallette wasn’t so abrasive.

Tétreault and Yoshihide have indeed suceeded in achieving audio environments, yet the substance factor is almost non-existant. Ultimately this work is forgettable, pointless and not worthy of repeated listenings. Members of the artistic “elite” may refer to this as daring and innovative, but the rest of us will just be left scratching our heads, wondering why studio time was wasted on such an undecipherable mess.

This work is noise in the truest sense of the word.


Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, August 27, 1999

These days it’s not so strange to think of the DJ as a musician, and between hip-hop-related artists DJ Shadow and DJ Spooky there’s been enough ink spilled on the subject to fill a few books. But it’s been a iong time coming: In the early 80s, long before the term turntablist came into being, a guy named Christian Marclay was conducting wild experiments with vinyl records that had nothing to do with breakbeats. Physically gluing pieces of different John Cage records together or layering sounds from unrelated records to form jarring collages, Marclay was as important as any hip-hopper in elevating the turntable from playback device to artistic tool. Montréal’s Martin Tétreault, once an experimental visual artist, began working in a similar vein in 1984, and in the last few years he’s released a flurry of fascinating recordings that go well beyond using the record player as a substitute for the sampler—a machine that, by the way, he dismisses because it lacks the serendipitous possibilities of a turntoble, whose output can be radically altered by something as random as a heavy footstep across the room. On Callas: la diva et le vinyle (like most of his work, on Ambiances MagnetiquesI, a duet with Robert Marcel Lepage, he actually plays some discernible passages from recordings by the eponymous opera great and engages in a genuine musical dialogue with the clarinetist, but most of his other recent stuHf is more abstract. He’s screwed with both records and record players, affixing objects to the vinyl or altering the design of the cartridge; he’s even made use of the sound of a turntable’s motor. And he’s a versatile performer: On Dur noyau dur, a duet with René Lussier, he meets the guitarist’s fractured, noisy Derek Bailey-like outbursts with equally disjointed and perpetually surprising eruptions; on 21 situations he answers the slippery electronic fuckery of Otomo Yoshihide with streams of unidentifiable gray sound. And on Île bizarre he counters the drum-machine improvisations of Ikue Mori and the broken-down samples of Diane Labrosse with lowkey noise bursts that eventually make it hard to tell who’s doing what. For his Chicago debut, he’ll improvise with local tabletop guitarist Kevin Drumm, whose recent Second (Perdition Plastics) further develops a unique musical language that no one’s likely to decode soon.

“… in the last few years [Martin Tétreault]’s released a flurry of fascinating recordings…”


Irving Bellemead, Splendid E-Zine, August 9, 1999

So, you think you’re a DJ? You think you can spin? You’re a vinyl superhero, spinning 19 discs at once, dropping needles like a clumsy junkie, matching beats like a… um, a really good beat matcher? Ha! Think again. It’s time for school…

On 21 situations, Québec’s Martin Tétreault and Japan’s Otomo Yoshihide lay down 21 tracks of beautiful improvised noise, all coaxed from an array of prepared records (broken, scratched, taped together, who knows what!), altered record players, screwy needles, samplers and CDs. With the exception of a few voice samples, there are almost no recoginizable sounds, and there are definitely no beats (there’s not a Funky Drummer in the house!)

Even without beats, each of the 21 situations has a terrific energy, a real momentum driving it along as Tétreault and Yoshihide spin and squirt all manner fuzz, bleeps and bloops, tinkles, rumbles, buzzes and pops out into the sonic landscape. If you’re a noise-improv connoisseur you’re probably already all over this one. And if you’re not a noise-improve connoisseur, well, what are you waiting for?


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 182, July 19, 1999

Three new releases from the never resting Ambiances magnétiques label (Québec, Canada). The first one is a meeting between two turntable wizzards. It’s the first meeting between Martin Tétreault and Otomo Yoshihide. On 3 days in december 1997 they recorded 21 situations in a studio in Montréal. Through scratching records, manupaliting turntables and associated techniques they work out their ideas in pieces that only in two cases takes more than 3 minutes. Well done.

Well done.


Downtown Music Gallery, May 1, 1999

Both Martin from Montréal & Otomo from Japan are turntable innovators whose unique sounds collide and connect in all sorts of weird but focused ways. Martin often plays & takes apart his turntables, hence the sounds of technology breaking down, often without the use of records. Otomo also plays sampler & cds in addition to turntables usually with records. Each of these 21 pieces are short and seem to deal with a few areas of sound at a time. Still, each piece is fascinating as it explores different terrains one at a time. Obviously both of these wizards have developed their own worlds of sound, sometimes twisted and chaotic, sometimes recognizable sound bytes emerge - is that Eye or David Moss I hear in there? One day when the evil music industry has finally gotten rid of records for good, we will be nostalgic for the sounds of scratchy records, skipping pops & repeats and the warmth that only a good virgin vinyl lp can provide. Those days are not so far off. My young niece of about seven years recently asked her father what a record is/was!?! How sad. An enchanting art form that is slowly disappearing. Available only on cd.

Soundcheck Review

Art Lange, The Wire, no. 180, February 1, 1999
Tétreault’s hands-on approach to turntables is doubtless unlike any other you’ve heard.


Dwight Loop, Earwaves Network, January 1, 1999

Controlled chaos, brilliant and illuminating from two of the world’s best at this iconoclastic collage of sounds and voices.


Philip Tagney, Resonance, no. 5:1, January 1, 1996

Martin Tétreault is a French Canadian from Montréal who performs with turntables. In London for LMC New Aura concert, he explained to Philip Tagney and Ed Baxter that he doesn’t have a sampler, but he does have a record called How To Train Your Dog.

Resonance: Can you tell us something about your background?

Martin Tétreault: First of all I was in fine art. I was involved in a conceptual approach, and I was cutting up paper. One day, I decided to cut up something else. I took a record, cut it into to slices, fixed side A with side B together with tape, put it onto record pickups and it worked. It all started from that.

R: So you had no formal music training, and you weren’t aware of other people experimenting with records?

MT: No, I did it alone. This was in 1984. Five years later someone asked me to collaborate in the Broken Music exhibition, and make a performance with Christian Marclay. Then I realised that some others had done the same as me, but I hadn’t known about them.

R: What are the aesthetic implications of what you are doing?

MT: I think right now I am changing. The work I did until now was mostly based on quotation, you know, taking a little part and adding it to another. I’m still doing that, but now I’m playing more with the physical, with the record itself, the noise it can produce. All the possibilities of the record itself, not only the music, but the object. You can cut it, splice it, scratch it, erase it, put paper on it, and so on.

R: Tell us something about your New Aura performance tonight.

MT: I’ve brought a lot of old turntables from Montréal. Some of them are called Calliphone, this was the turntable found in every school when I was a kid. Each turntable has its own possibilities and its own sound. I also have a Thecnics turntable—a friend of mine put a switch on it so I can play reverse and forwards at 100 rpm. And I use a balloon which I put around the tone-arm: I call it “frottophone”, and it creates a friction between the balloon and the record—it’s very funny to do it! I have some spoken word records, in Montréal I have a collection of maybe 200: How to Train Your Dog, How To Dance Disco, How To Save Your Life…

R: Do you see a problem maintaining an individual quality in the music you’re making? David Shea remarked that if you have too many elements in the sound, then it becomes a kind of continuum again. Do you think there’s an optimum level between not having enough material and using too much material?

MT: Too much material is dangerous. I realised that some weeks ago, because I buy a lot of records and I don’t have time to listen to them. After a show someone came up to me and said “Hey, you used a Bartok String Quartet”. I said that I didn’t know, because I don’t use the music because of who wrote it, but for the music itself. I have a selection of electronic music, drumming, guitar music, so when I want to make a cut I say OK, I’ll take a bit of electronic… this is a way I can build music.

R: So it’s like orchestration?

MT: Yes. And I can reproduce that many times. It’s not only improvisation. I make a mark on the record—I learned that in Bruire, a band that I play with in Montréal. Every night I had to play the same cut, it’s this record, at this place, at this moment, at this speed. It can be very precise. It’s like sampling, but it’s mechanical sampling. Someone asked me, “Why don’t you use a sampler?” I answered, “It’s not old enough. ” When no one is interested in samplers any more, that’s when I’ll use them!

R: Why? What’s the attraction of old technology?

MT: Mechanics! I’ve found new ways to use turntables, just through mechanics, varispeed and so on. I’m not yet ready to explore samplers. But I did some collaborations with electroacoustic musicians, and there’s a good balance, because their sounds are very real and clutured while with me it’s more Art brut. So if you put those things together… I’mvery interested in the larger scale—every sound has its own quality. There’s no sound better than another—it’s how, where, and why you use it.

R: I’m interested that you reject samplers. Essentially you’re interested in an end result, and its seems to me you could get the same result from samplers or CDs.

MT: For me the samplers is too much “itself”. You know the origin of the sound,and if I play this sound it will be this sound. But when I put on a record and I make a wrong move — whoops! — the needle skips and I have to play with that.

R: So does your music mostly depend on spontaneity?

MT: Yes, a part of it does. I prepare a road, and I have a place where I start, a place where I stop, and a place where I ask myself “Where am I going?” And the result is what we call the show.