Frank Martel, born in 1958, is a poet and musician. His life is entirely dedicated to the unknown and the silence that is characteristic of it. Discovered in 1979 by the poet and essayist Phillippe Haeck, he published two poetry collections at VLB Éditeur. He learned to play guitar and began writing songs. In 1992, he published a third volume, La lune à l’air ce soir d’un bout d’ongle arraché (L’Oie de Cravan Éditeur). In 1995, he created Dans le ring ou tu boxes, a poetry-performance show at the Théâtre La Chapelle. He has performed, solo or in a duo with Nathalie Derome, several pieces in museums, galleries and cabarets. Frank Martel recorded his first album, Enjambons le désert, in 2001, and his second in 2003. In Sautons ce repas de midi, which met with excellent reviews, Frank Martel et l’Ouest Céleste present 14 songs in a range of styles under the musical direction of Bernard Falaise.
Residence: Montréal (Québec)
- Performer (voice, theremin)
In the press
Lawrence Joseph, Signal to Noise, no. 51, September 1, 2008
David Ryshpan, Panpot, July 3, 2008
François Couture, actuellecd.com, November 25, 2003
The eighth annual Suoni per il Popolo spanned a month and covered a huge range of musical genres. Over 50 concerts took place in two venues located across the street from each other in Montréal’s artist-filled Mile End neighborhood. It gave fans of free jazz, experimental rock, avant folk, contemporary classical, electronic, and improvised musics plenty to get excited about. Add a workshop with the Sun Ra Arkestra, street performance art, DJ sets and an outdoor day of music and children’s activities, and you have an unbeatably eclectic event. […]
The festival kicked off with two shows that exemplified what it does best. The more intimate Casa del Popolo was the venue for a free jazz blowout with saxophonist Glen Hall, bassist Dominic Duval, and drummer William Hooker, […] Hall keeps a relatively low profile, despite having studied with Ligeti and Kagel and played with the likes of Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Giuffre and John Scofield. The compositions in the first set paid tribute to some of his influences, while the second set shifted to freely improvised territory, with Montréal’s young trumpet luminary Gordon Allen sitting in to add blistering sound blasts and overblowing to the mix. At times this resembled the more noise-based music Hooker has made with Thurston Moore. […]
Another evening featured the debut of All Up In There, a trio of Allen, Michel F Côté on percussion, and Frank Martel on Theremin. Martel often played the theremin as if it were a stand-up bass, while Côté, when not playing kit, obtained a surprising variety of sounds from winging two mics around Pignose amps. The overall effect was more like a group of virtuosic Martians than a standard jazz trio. […]
Christof Migone’s performance piece Hit Parade took place outside on a busy Saint-Laurent Boulevard, taking over the sidewalk and one lane of traffic. Eleven people lay face down on the pavement, each pounding a microphone into the ground exactly one thousand times, at varying speeds. The sound of a giant asynchronous metronome prompted ironic thoughts in this listener about the usual meaning of the phrase “hit music,” and about pounding the pavement as a metaphor for life. […]
The Quatuor Bozzini, a string quartet dedicated to contemporary music, performed a selection of pieces by experienced improviser/composers. Malcolm Goldstein’s four-part structured improvisation A New Song of Many Faces for in These Times (2002) was by turns gentle and harsh, agitated and introspective, as melodic and rhythmic fragments were passed from one member of the quartet to another. Goldstein himself performed Hardscrabble Songs, a 13-minute solo piece for voice and violin. Jean Derome and Joane Hétu’s Le mensonge et l’identité (“Lies and Identity”) is an hour-long tour de force with a strong socio-political component. The Bozzinis’ spoken contributions (both live and on prerecorded tape) ranged from pithy quotes from philosophers and politicians to personal anecdotes. The music deliberately unraveled into chaos, the players moving music stands and chairs about the room in response to unsynchronized metronomes, tipping over stands as the scores on them were completed. […]
… A third Quartetski member, Gordon Allen, followed with his new trio, All Up In There, featuring percussionist Michel F Côté and theremin player Frank Martel. Allen started with a very breathy, noisy sound, leaving lots of space in his line. Côté began with a towel draped over his kit, and even without it he retained a very dry sound, with small crisp cymbals. Martel successfully avoided the sci-fi connotations of the theremin, adding a unique colour to the set, manipulating it to truly engage with Allen. Côté had two condenser mics that he ran through two Pignose amps. When he used them as sticks to amplify his kit, he gave the drums a fuzzy, grungy sound that would not have been out of place on a Tom Waits record. At other times he pointed the mics at each other or at the amps, manipulating the pitch and volume of the feedback almost like a second theremin. In the more aggressive moments, Côté played a somewhat tribal rock beat while Allen elicited noise and feedback sounds out of his trumpet and Martel anchored everything with a deep, ominous theremin bassline. The physical gestures Côté and Martel used to improvise were nearly as important as the sound itself…
The Holidays are closing in. Are you wondering what gifts to buy this year? You’re looking for the original gift, the one that will surprise and please? Why not expand the musical horizons of a loved one, a colleague at work, or a cousin you haven’t seen since last Christmas? Here’s my highly personal selection of gift ideas to introduce someone (or yourself, you’re allowed to indulge from time to time!) to the wonderful world of "musique actuelle."
That good ol’ song
It may seem a bit easy, but everyone likes a good song. That said, we don’t all have the same definition of what a good song is. And the artists in DAME’s catalog take some liberties with this format — that’s what makes things exciting. But Geneviève Letarte’s Chansons d’un jour will please anyone looking for songs with intelligent, accessible melodies and poetic lyrics. The soft melancholy of Chants des adieux, chants de la solitude will profoundly move dreamers in search of a different voice (Lou Babin’s, irresistible).
You don’t understand French? The lyrics of Jerry Snell’s album Life in the Suicide Riots will make you think hard about the world we live in. And the chugging guitar riffs of André Duchesne ’s Locomotive will catch the attention of any rock fan, even one deaf to French. Speaking of rock, the deconstructed rock of the all-female group Justine can keep you busy for a while, lyrics or no lyrics. Their first album (Suite) is a powerful mixture of progressist rock, while their second Langages fantastiques leans more toward improvised songs. If you want a taste of what songwriting avant-garde artists can come up with, try the compilation album Chante! 1985-2000, a wide and wild selection of unusual songs.
A time for celebrating, letting off steam, and disobedience, the party when applied to music can give way to a distortion of admitted rules. L’Orkestre des pas perdusinjects a new form of circus life into fanfare music, an infectious R ’n’ B (rhythm ’n’ brass, of course) that will refresh any parade. Its cousin Les Projectionnistes (both bands are led by Claude St-Jean) trades circus for rock and the brass section transforms from funny fanfare to frenetic funk. Taking a different approach, the Fanfare Pourpour leaves the official parade attire behind to favor the spontaneity of a street fanfare. It’s music for "everyone" (Tout le monde, the title of their first album) without dropping to the lowest common denominator.
In a similar spirit, but adding an East-European flavor and an incredible dose of energy is the group Interférence Sardines, which features two members of the neo-trad group Les Batinses. Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms walks a jazzier road, but its frivolous side easily becomes delightfully exuberant. The group’s three albums are all highly recommended, but Carnets de voyage remains an excellent place to start. And I find the same spirit of excessiveness and raw emotion in La boulezaille (Pierre Langevin and Pierre Tanguay) and Plinc! Plonc! (Jean Derome and Pierre Tanguay), two albums where world music, jazz and free improvisation collide.
And to boldly go where few have gone before
Maybe you would like to go further and hook someone on a kind of "musique actuelle" that is more daring and abstract. Here are a few key albums from DAME’s catalogue in improvised and electronic music.
Martin Tétreault is one of the most fascinating experimental artists right now. His technique at the turntable spins 45 questions per minute. His recent album with Diane Labrosse, Parasites, puts disquieting quiet sounds under the microscope. And Studio — Analogique — Numérique, his fresh collaboration with the Japanese mastermind Yoshihide Otomo, proposes cutting-edge sonic research in very original packaging: a box set of three 3" CDs.
A pillar of the avant-garde music scene since the early ‘70s, Fred Frith remains the favorite of many connoisseurs. The two albums by the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet (with René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky and Mark Stewart) are essential listens. DAME also distributes the titles released by Frith’s own Fred Records.
One of the first groups from the DAME stables to have explored electroacoustic improvisation, the Klaxon Gueule trio revels in noisy textures and demanding pleasures. Their last two albums Muets and Grain met critical acclaim. And I also want to mention the Ohmix compilation album, a daring electronic project where select artists (including Martin Tétreault, David Kristian, John Oswald, Terre Thaemlitz, and Ralf Wehowsky) remix the albums of the label Avatar.
Finally, instead of sending out the usual Christmas cards, consider the sound post cards produced by the label Ouïe-Dire. These are regular post cards accompanied by 3" CDs from French experimental artists. And happy Holidays!