Portrait: Alexandre St-Onge

François Couture, AllMusic, 1 juin 2002

Alexandre St-Onge is an ambiguous artist from Montréal. He started playing free jazz on double bass and quickly developed into a sound/performance artist. He belongs to the generation of experimentalists and improvisors that came after the Ambiances Magnétiques collective and was actually instrumental in establishing some contacts between that group of artists and the younger ones revolving around Godspeed You Black Emperor! He has released a few solo albums and recorded and performed with Klaxon Gueule, Undo, Et Sans and Shalabi Effect.

St-Onge studied double bass. Little is known of his formative years, but his first major musical activity was being recruited by Ambiances Magnétiques drummer Michel F Côté to form the free improv trio Klaxon Gueule (also with Bernard Falaise). A first album, Bavards, came out in 1997 on which St-Onge performs in a classic American free jazz style. By the time the group’s second CD Muets was released two years later he had abandoned conventional playing, focusing on effects, electronics and textures, dragging the formation into European-style electro-acoustic improv.

In the meantime the bassist had met the other, mostly anglophone Montréal avant-garde scene, collaborating with the likes of Sam Shalabi (in his Shalabi Effect with albums out on Alien8 Recordings), David Kristian (the trio Kristian Shalabi St-Onge, also on Alien8), and conceptual artist Christof Migone, once of the Quebec sound art collective Avatar. St-Onge released a first solo album, Image/Négation in early 1999. It established his fondness for the exploration of silence and noise, relating his work to artists like Francisco López, John Duncan, Bernhard Günter and John Hudak.

On his second solo effort, Une mâchoire et deux trous (1999, Namskeio) he built eery textures by putting contact microphones in his mouth. This idea was developed into a performance art concept with Migone in the duo Undo. The pair also founded the record label Squint Fucker Press in 2001. Meanwhile St-Onge reached a certain level of success with the avant-psychedelic outfit Shalabi Effect. He also recorded an album with Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s Roger Tellier-Craig as Et Sans.

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