In the press
Sophie Stévance, L’éducation musicale, no. 562, September 1, 2009
Isnor B Gordon, Left Hip Magazine, December 12, 2008An awesome concert…
Marvin, Free Albums Galore, February 6, 2008They mix well with the larger ensemble creating a well thought out atmospheric work.
Cristin Miller, Signal to Noise, no. 34, June 1, 2004A drama of highly attuned listening slowly emerged full of simultaneous starts, frequent finishing of each others’ sentences, and sudden collective laughter.
François Couture, actuellecd.com, September 16, 2003
François Couture, AllMusic, June 15, 2002… Justine pushed further the ideals of challenging, thought-provoking feminist rock…
Fred Frith played in Montréal recently along with some very talented local free improv players. I was fortunate enough to catch the show…
Legendary avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith dropped by Montréal’s Cabaret Juste Pour Rire the other night for a duo show with drummer Danielle Palardy Roger, and an opening set by two incredible percussionists - Michel F Côté and Isaiah Ceccarelli.
Côté and Ceccarelli started things off with nothing but drums. Côté was behind a standard kit extended with lots of toys and two mics rigged up two a pair of Pignose amps. Ceccarelli just had a bass drum lying on a chair along with, again, lots of toys. The pieces were all very brief which was really nice, and despite the fact that drums alone might seem limited, each piece was very different from those that came before – sound loud and frenetic, others quiet, one actually managed to elicit quite a bit of laughter from the audience, which I’m hoping was a good thing. Côté used the mics as drum sticks to great effect - creating all kinds of unusual sounds of tension and release, friction, surprisingly dynamic feedback that almost made one think of the expressiveness of the Theremin, and there were moments of all out, distorted, banging-on-a-drum fun. The feedbacking drums were paired up really well with Ceccarelli’s bowed playing. A great set.
Fred Frith and Danielle Palardy Roger were up second and once they began playing, they did not stop until their set was finished — a really long and well laid-out musical journey with lots of highlights and unexpected twists and turns. Fred pulled out every trick in the prepared guitar book - from the old twanging drum stick between the strings to an array of effects and looping pedals and beyond. But with his mastery of music and his instrument it never felt like he was depending on the gimmicks, more using them to great effect to build up a complex, multilayered soundscape and every-evolving composition. He was well matched up with Danielle Palardy Roger, who also had all of the extended techniques and managed to make great music with them. They both seemed to be following their own paths the whole way not interacting too much like some free improv players do, creating a sort of back and forth conversation type of sound, but their individual paths meshed perfectly well together, so maybe they were both just following the music more than their own instrumental egos. Adding an extra oomph to the coolness of the show was when first Fred Frith let loose a barrage of percussive and wailing tribal vocals, followed a little later on by vocal sounds along similar lines from Danielle Palardy Roger. Took it to another level beyond the often staid confines of stylized free improv into something more about music in a broader and more sophisticated sense.
An awesome concert, and I think it was part of a recording project so it may see the light of day on CD in the not too distant future…
Le GGRIL is that most cumbersome of all musical monsters, the avant-garde big band. The nature of the big jazz band is to allow improvisation over tightly structured arrangements. The big band is practically the opposite of avant-garde jazz which often respect freedom of sound over tonality, structure, or even rhythm.
Le GGRIL is centered in Québec, Canada and walks a tightrope between the improvised and the structured. The band’s arsenal of imaginative players borrow as much from post-classical as from free jazz. Their personnel is changeable but the unusual assortment of saxes, clarinet, accordions, violins, guitar and percussion seems to be the norm. The free self titled album has four tracks. Tracks 1, 2, 4 are directed by alto saxophonist Jean Derome with Fire + Bebelle most closely related to jazz. Tracks 2 and 4 are quieter and makes good use of long tones and well placed silence. Derome’s direction and playing is center toward exploring sounds and environment more so than totally free improvisation.
The same can be said for track 3 which is an extended 11 minute work featuring the improvisatory trio of Les Poules. Alto saxist Joane Hétu, percussionist Danielle Palardy Roger, and samplist Diane Labrosse tends to prefer long drones with free improvisation as accent. They mix well with the larger ensemble creating a well thought out atmospheric work.
The album is available from the excellent Insubordinations netlabel in 320kbps MP3.
The 19th annual Seattle Improvised Music Festival took place this winter over two week-ends in Febuary. This year brought a turning point for the festival, as the long-term orginizers turned over the reins to musicians newly very active in the scene, all of whom are directly or indirectly affialited with Open Music Workshop. Open Music Workshop (or OMW) is a relatively young entity, less than two years old, but has constitued something like a second wave in the improvised music scene in Seattle. This shift in leadership was reflected in the shape of the festival this year, which cast a wider net and included a broader range of approaches to music making.
The next weekend I also managed to catch Les Poules (Montréal) at Consolodated Works, a large warehouse-like art gallery and performance space. Les Poules have beon playing together for over a decade, and every passing minute of their long history and musical intimacy. Joane Hétu (vocals, alto sax) staked out a minimalist territory of voiceless fricatives and static noises, which she mined over the course of the performance. Diane Labrosse (electronics) explored a similarly focused territory, while Danielle Palardy Roger’s percussion poured out speechlike with orchestraly various gestures accumulating over time into a complex field. A drama of highly attuned listening slowly emerged full of simultaneous starts, frequent finishing of each others’ sentences, and sudden collective laughter. Occasionally, certain silences were allowed to move with grace to the center of the circle.
With the notable exception of sugary pop, all music styles are dominated by the male. Whether he’s grunting into the microphone, strumming his guitar, or blowing his lungs out on the saxophone, the manly man monopolizes the image of the musician, be it in corporate rock or on the new music scene. When women venture into his domain, they are often coerced into fitting the mold of the industry.
That’s why it is so surprising to find this many creative, challenging, talented women in DAME’s catalog. But one should not forget that early in its lifetime the collective Ambiances Magnétiques welcomed three artists whose musical activities, organizing minds and determination provided a force of attraction for other women. Of course, I am talking about Joane Hétu, Diane Labrosse and Danielle Palardy Roger.
Our three protagonists met at the turn of the ‘80s in Wondeur Brass and pursued their association into Les Poules and Justine. First an anarchist/feminist big band, Wondeur Brass was a laboratory to Joane, Diane and Danielle. They honed their skills — Joane, self-taught, literally learned to play music while playing music in it. Their own blend of modern poetry, free jazz and rock-in-opposition already took center stage on the LP Ravir. From the sextet featured on this first effort, the group scaled down to a quartet (with bassist Marie Trudeau as the fourth member) by the time of Simoneda, reine des esclaves. This line-up soon took the name Justine for three more albums (credited to the name of the individual musicians, La légende de la pluie can be seen as a collaboration between Justine, Zeena Parkins and Tenko) and the feminist discourse got gradually subsumed, making way for a growing playfulness that reached its peak on the phenomenal album Langages fantastiques.
Soon after the release of Langages fantastiques, the three girls launched their solo careers. Linguistic marvel and a rough delivery keep singer and saxophonist Joane Hétu close to the field of outsider art. First she formed her own group Castor et compagnie (with Labrosse, Jean Derome and Pierre Tanguay) which has recorded two albums of sensual and twisted songs in direct relation to Justine’s music. Later she turned to improvisation, first in a duo with her life partner Jean Derome as Nous perçons les oreilles (We Pierce Ears) and later solo with the intensely intimate album Seule dans les chants. She recently proved her worth in large-scale composition with her marvelous Musique d’hiver.
Toward the end of Justine’s life, Diane Labrosse traded in her keyboard for a sampler. After a solo album, Face cachée des choses, a duo album with percussionist Michel F Côté (Duo déconstructiviste) and a guest spot in the latter’s group Bruire (on Les Fleurs de Léo), she wrote a piece for improvisers (Petit traité de sagesse pratique) before devoting her time to improvisation. Parasites (her ongoing collaboration with Martin Tétreault) and Télépathie (with Aimé Dontigny) show how it is possible to handle a sampler with grace and sensibility.
Since the disbanding of Justine, Danielle Palardy Roger’s discography has been growing slowly — she’s very busy organizing concerts as head of Productions SuperMusique. Her children’s tale L’oreille enflée (featuring the voices and instruments of Derome, Hétu and André Duchesne among others) speaks to a young audience with an intelligence too rarely found in such projects. And Tricotage, her improv session with French bassist Joëlle Léandre, reminds us how refined her drumming can be.
In 1986, Joane, Diane and Danielle took a vacation away from Wondeur Brass to investigate the limits of the pop song format under the name Les Poules — The Chicks (Contes de l’amère loi, freshly reissued). Recently they reformed the trio, this time pushing the music toward a form of improvisation rich in subtle textures, blending quiet noise, active listening, and lyricism. Prairie orange is the first effort from this awaited return to collective work.
The presence within Ambiances Magnétiques of these three creators has attracted to the label other female artists with similar interests. The first one to join the roaster was Geneviève Letarte, who has recorded two beautiful albums of poetic songs (Vous seriez un ange and Chansons d’un jour). Lately, DAME’s catalog has welcomed performer Nathalie Derome, guitarist Sylvie Chenard, pianist Pui Ming Lee, along with Queen Mab members Lori Freedman and Marilyn Lerner who each delivered a solo album (À un moment donné and Luminance).
So, is musique actuelle a man’s world? Listen to these few hints and you’ll see for yourself.
Born out of the Montréal-based avant-rock group Wondeur Brass, Justine pushed further the ideals of challenging, thought-provoking feminist rock established in its previous incarnation for another ten years. The group released three albums during the 1990s and toured Canada, the United States,and visited Europe twice. Three of its musicians are members of the collective Ambiances Magnétiques, so the label released all their albums.
Wondeur Brass started as a sextet in the early ’80s. By 1987 the group had been scaled down to a quartet. Bassist Marie Trudeau had joined the three original members saxophonist Joane Hétu, keyboardist Diane Labrosse and drummer Danielle Palardy Roger. That line-up released Simoneda, reine des esclaves in 1987.
Upon starting work on a new opus in 1989, the girls decided it was time for a change. The new music taking shape was turning out to be more complex, intricate, and driven by a stronger will to improvise and make things interestingly dangerous. Thus Justine was born. The first album under the new name, (Suite), came out in 1990. It included guest appearances by Japanese singer Tenko and American harpist Zeena Parkins. In 1992, Hétu, Labrosse and Roger brought them back for a quintet project, La légende de la pluie. Although it doesn’t include Trudeau and sounds softer, more introspective, it can be considered as the second album by Justine. Around the same time the “real” quartet appeared on stage in an Ambiances Magnétiques showcase which yielded the live CD Une théorie des ensembles.
In early 1994 Justine toured Europe, visiting many former communist countries. Back in Montréal in June they recorded Langages Fantastiques “live in the studio” — the recording of (Suite) had stretched over ten months. After its release later that year things slowed down as group members focused on individual projects: Roger on the children tale L’oreille enflée, Labrosse on a solo album (La face cachée des choses) and a duo with Michel F Côté, Hétu on a new group called Castor et Compagnie. Justine stayed together for another three years and performed at the 1997 Ring Ring festival in Belgrade (Yugoslavia) alongside Ground-Zero, Palinckx, and Kampec Dolores (a previously unreleased song was included on the commemorative compilation Ring Ring 1997). After that tour the group disbanded. Hétu, Labrosse and Roger have continued to contribute to one another’s projects.