Barnyard Drama (Suoni / L’Off Festival)
… The evening started off with Philippe Lauzier and Pierre-Yves Martel of Quartetski, turntablist Martin Tétreault and Norwegian guitarist Kim Myhr in three quiet and textural improvisations. The set started with Lauzier playing his alto saxophone with a plunger mute affixed on his bell, creating a muffled and distant sound. The blend of Tétreault’s turntables, Myhr’s guitar effects and Martel’s viola da gamba was impressive. It was difficult to determine where the sounds were coming from. Martel, unamplified, would bow furiously, unleashing streams of harmonics, and even thump his bow against the body of the instrument. Myhr and Lauzier used their instruments more as resonators for external objects and vocalizations. Myhr many times moved a spinning toy across the body of his classical guitar, which he alternately played lying flat on his lap or in normal playing position. Lauzier also played bass clarinet, emphasizing the overtones of the instrument, and pulled out a plastic tube through which he circular breathed. At that moment, with Lauzier playing the tube, the whole group combined to sound like a massive vacuum cleaner, or that noisy radiator from down the hall — a sound full of airy noise, feedback and harmonics…
La maturité de L’OFF Festival de jazz
Enfin! Bravo! Merci aux organisateurs de L’OFF Festival de Jazz de Montréal d’avoir accompli un retournement temporel. La neuvième édition de cet événement ne se tiendra pas simultanément à l’autre, le «gros», si l’on peut se permettre. Après s’être rendu compte que l’offre musicale se confondait avec hyperinflation au début de l’été, les responsables de l’Off ont décidé de devancer les dates. Bref, il se déroulera du 13 au 21 juin.
La deuxième modification apportée est géographique. Adieu le Patro Vys, bonjour le Dièse Onze, qui a ceci de bien qu’il est un club de jazz à l’année. Jazz et resto situé au 4115 A du boulevard Saint-Denis, pour être précis. Les autres points de chute sont les mêmes que ceux de l’édition antérieure: le Lion d’or et le Pub Saint-Ciboire. Auxquels s’ajoutent cette année…
… La Sala Rossa. Et là, si l’on peut dire, c’est l’autre bonne nouvelle de cette année. Voici de quoi il s’agit: les organisateurs de l’Off se sont associés à ceux du festival Suoni per il popolo, qui se tiendra du 1er au 30 juin. Cette alliance, selon les confidences de Jean-Jules Pilote, cheville ouvrière de l’Off, devrait s’étoffer au cours des prochaines années.
C’est à espérer. Car au cours des prochaines semaines, ce duo d’organisateurs va proposer deux spectacles à La Sala Rossa: le Sun Ra Arkestra, dont on a parlé la semaine dernière, le 14 juin, et le Barnyard Drama, le quartet Lauzier, Myhr, Martel, Tétreault ainsi que Gordon Allen le 15 juin. Prix du billet de Sun Ra: 25$, alors que celui du lendemain se détaille entre 14 et 16$.
Puisqu’on décline les histoires d’espèces sonnantes, il faut insister sur un fait économique fondamental. C’est sérieux, très sérieux même. Le rapport qualité/prix inhérent aux shows de l’Off est REMARQUABLE! Le coût d’entrée des spectacles à l’affiche du Dièse Onze est de 8$. Ceux du Pub Saint-Ciboire sont gratuits. Ceux du Lion d’or: 20$ en prévente ou 25$ à la porte pour deux shows ou 15$ pour celui débutant à 21h30. Pour les détails, on peut se renseigner au lofffestivaldejazz.com
Bon. Après lecture du programme, six des shows au Lion d’or sont à retenir: la Fanfare Pourpour, qui aura l’accordéoniste et chanteur suédois Lars Hollmer pour invité. Cette fanfare à la veine humoristique indéniable est toujours dirigée par l’immense Jean Derome. Quoi d’autre? Il suffit d’écouter leur album paru sur étiquette Ambiances Magnétiques pour s’apercevoir que les membres de cette grande formation excellent dans l’alchimie des folklores du monde.
Le 18 juin, le saxophoniste et clarinettiste Chet Doxas va proposer un spectacle propre à aiguiser toutes les curiosités: Le Mur de Jean-Paul Sartre. Doxas a composé une série de thèmes inspirés, donc, de ce chef-d’œuvre littéraire qu’il interprétera en compagnie de Stéphane Allard et Zoé Dumais aux violons, de Jean René à l’alto, de Sheila Hannigan au violoncelle, de Zack Lober à la contrebasse, de son frère Jim à la batterie, tous sous la direction de Jon Sapoway.
Le même soir, mais après Doxas, les musiciens phares des labels DAME et Ambiances Magnétiques vont occuper la scène pour improviser à tout va. Autour de Derome, on retrouvera Joanne Hétu au saxo, Charity Chan au piano, Diane Labrosse à l’échantillonnage, Lori Freedman à la clarinette basse, Guido Del Fabbro au violon, Rainer Wiens à la guitare et l’incontournable Pierre Tanguay à la batterie.
Le 20 juin, le très courageux, le musicien essentiel, le contrebassiste battant Normand Guilbeault va décliner ses compositions retraçant la vie de Louis Riel. Il sera flanqué de quatorze musiciens, narrateurs et projectionnistes. C’est au Lion d’or le 20 juin à 20h. La veille, au même endroit, on aura droit à l’accouplement jazz et poésie avec José Acquelin, Renée Gagnon, Hélène Monette, Carole David et Jean-Marc Desgent.
Enfin, le 21 juin, l’affiche est alléchante parce que… parce que… le saxophoniste Janis Steprans a réuni trois autres saxos autour de lui pour clôturer cette 9e édition. André Leroux sera au soprano, David Bellemare au ténor, Jean Fréchette au baryton et Steprans, bien entendu, à l’alto. Simon Lévesque à la contrebasse et Dave Laing à la batterie vont rythmer le tout.
Les billets sont en vente à L’Oblique, à L’Échange, à L’Articulée ainsi qu’à la Casa Del Popolo et à Cheap Thrills pour les shows du 14 et du 15 juin.
On 14 December 2000 in Montréal, turntablist Martin Tétreault and percussionist Pierre Tanguay recorded an offbeat but affectionate homage to the history of jazz in the form of ten three-minute pieces, one for each decade of Uhe 20th century. Three days later Tétreault mailed a DAT of the session to French improvising clarinettist Xavier Charles, who added his own contributions on 29 December before mixing down and pressing the result in a ridiculously limited CD-R edition two days later. The trio can indeed claim to have made the last jazz record of the 20th century.
In today’s Improv, whose practitioners scowl joylessly at laptops and inputless mixing boards, it’s a pleasant surprise to come across the same sense of humour that once characterised Lol Coxhill’s and Steve Beresford’s work on the Nato label. Recorded in mono, the first four tracks are followed by a Pythonesque “and now - stereo!“ flourish. Though conceptually rigorous, this is no mere exercise in cheap pastiche. Charles’s quotations of Sidney Bechet are as affectionate as they are accomplished, but he makes no attempt to ape the beboppers. Instead he sticks to sustained grainy multiphonics swinging between the left and right channels, leaving Tétreault’s mangled Hammond organ samples and Tanguay’s manic drumming to reference 50s hard bop.
Similarly, “1960-1970 Free Jazz Tony Williams Lifetime” finds the clarinettist emitting distinctly 21st century spits and rustles. The deliciously cheesy closing track, “1990-2000 Acid Jazz Electronique”, leaves the listener in little doubt as to what the musicians think of the genre, especially Charles who spends the entire track noodling, Feldman-like, on three adjacent semitones. The inner sleeve of this vinyl reissue Iovingly reproduces Delphine Touzet’s delightful original artwork - «Sauvons le Jazz!» indeed. It has rarely taken such a hammering as this.
A Gift Idea: Expand Someone’s Horizons
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!
[…] I swung by Tonic and saw Otomo Yoshihide play a turntable-noize set with Martin Tétreault. They sat on stage making a furious din with their mangled Technics decks, while the assembled crowd sat in chairs, watching them quietly and utterly RESPECTFULLY, sometimes speaking to each other in awed hushed tones between sets. That is what unnerves me, I think, about improvised music in that sort of venue, and is why I prefer to get my noise fix from going to Lightning Bolt shows. You’d think with that kind of extremely ugly and powerful music — and I really like a lot of Otomo Yoshihide’s work — you’d be pushed by it into the physical realm, to dance or at least move, but not just sit there. I couldn’t bear sitting down so I stood up, drinking beer and fidgeting while watching them spin warped records, scraping tone arms into grooves under extreme amplification. After the set I went up and looked at their setup; the tone arms had been cut and gouged and taped up with springs hanging out, the 45s used for the performance had titles like ‘Lesson #29’. When I looked at the wrecked decks I couldn’t help but feel like it was a waste to ‘adjust’ a table like that, even for a noise project; I’d been so conditioned by a lifetime of loving record players and fixing broken garage-sale ones to treat them with care and calibrate them precisely, so to see expensive Technics 1200s with their guts hanging out seemed, well, so decadent, and shocked me in a way that seeing a wrecked guitar wouldn’t. (I remember reading an interview with Kraftwerk from the late 70s where they bemoaned people who smashed guitars, talking about how long it had taken them to save for Hohner amps and how they couldn’t comprehend smashing up their own gear.) I think another reason why I feel this way about tables is that in DJing, you’re often interested in smoothness, perfection, a continuous mix, getting things beatmatched exactly. (in other words, a lot of work in an attempt to make everything look effortless!) Even in scratching, perfection is key; there’s good scratching and bad scratching, and in hip-hop you still have to stay within the bounds of rhythm. But seeing the brutalized Technics being forced to vomit up horrible noise made me realize that they’d made the record players their own, that they were, after all, just machines to be used by people, not people to be used by machines, and that the flinching they provoked in me when they smashed an expensive tone arm into a virgin piece of vinyl was perhaps part of the point.
The “other” turntablism
Martin Tétreault liked elementary school. A lot. Which might be one reason why he has a fondness for using the Calliphone turntables used in schools in the ’60s and ’70s.
The story of how Tétreault went from visual arts to turntablism is more or less well known, how he took a vinyl album, cut it in half, and glued the pieces back together backward, thus producing an instant “symphony.” This was the mid-’80s, and he knew nothing of the turntable experimentalism of people like Christian Marclay. But he was soon brought up to speed when guitarist André Duchesne, a neighbour, heard what Tétreault was up to and drew him to the attention of the Ambiances Magnétiques collective.
Today, he answers a compliment on his considerable improvising skills rather modestly, saying, “I was lucky because I was able to develop my improvising by working with the best people in Montréal right away, people like Jean Derome, René Lussier, Diane Labrosse, Michel F Côté and Robert Marcel Lepage.”
Tétreault’s method involves a deconstruction of the turntable and the vinyl recording, though these days he no longer uses vinyl for the music on them. “For one thing, I don’t have to worry about copyright issues anymore,” Tetreault says, half-jokingly.
Tétreault’s approach has been influential, not least on Otomo Yoshihide, arguably Japan’s best improvising musician. When Yoshihide saw the duo of Tétreault and Labrosse at the Angelica Fest in Italy in 1997, his music took a turn in a minimalist direction. He disbanded Ground Zero, which had been at the core of his musical activity, to pursue smaller-sized projects.
Yoshihide and Tétreault have so far recorded three albums together - two duos, Studio-Analogique-Numérique (Ambiances Magnétiques, 2003) and 21 Situations (Ambiances Magnétiques, 1999), and a trio with Philip Jeck, last year’s Invisible Architecture #1 (Audiosphere).
In April of this year, the duo toured Europe, and Tétreault hopes that an album will come out of the recordings of the concerts.
Yoshihide plays with two modified Technics turntables and a guitar amplifier that he uses for feedback. Tétreault uses a three-tone arm turntable with three pedal volume controls. No reverb, no delay.
“It’s visual. When we do a move, what you see is what you hear.” But what you hear might not sound like what you expect, Tétreault explains. “It’s not electronic, it’s completely analog, but it may sound electronic.”
“It’s a very good energy between us,” Tétreault states. “Our concerts are completely improvised. We never, during the tour, talk about music. We never discuss pacing or things like that.”
The duo’s appearances in Quebec City (October 28, 2003) and Montréal (October 29, 2003) are the Canadian leg of a four-city tour that will go to New York and Boston the next two evenings. Because of certain travel restrictions, Tétreault will be using turntable motors, tone arms and prepared vinyl in New York and Boston. They will be his first performances in those cities. It will also be the first time that he will perform with those devices.
A bit of a risk, no? “These days, I like to take more risks. If I find I can make a new sound, I don’t explore it, I just try it out in a concert.”
For Tétreault, his deconstructive experimentalism takes him back to his school days. “The turntable is usually only treated as a passive object, but there are a lot of hidden sounds it makes as an object. The sounds in the turntables were always there in the classroom.”