Other than the self-imposed isolation of a studio, the lack of artistic compromise and proverbial spitting in the face of mainstream success, there’s something that many experimental musicians lack that discourages even the most stalwart fans: a personality. Said individuals often seem academic, overly serious and just plain bland — something that, for better or worse, seeps into their music.
Fortunately, people like Érick d’Orion (aka Érick d’Orion) and Aimé Dontigny (aka A_dontigny), the duo behind morceaux_de_machines, exist in this world to counter stereotypes of what the so-called avant-garde should do. Their stint under the name Napalm Jazz, both as a radio program on Québec’s CKIA FM and a band of the same name, gives them a different approach to the improvisation/composition realm, one somewhere between Anthony Braxton, Penderecki and Public Enemy. Some listeners dub them the “B-Boys of musique concrète”. Very cool.
Their set incorporates a fused conglomeration of elements, something that never backs down from a challenge, even if it means bending two poles to meet — a mix that sits comfortably atop a history book while swilling cheap merlot from a paper cup. m_d_m propel Fonçage de pieux with hyperactive scratching, serious cutting that will leave a mark, while Tinkerbell melodies drift in and out over a pulsing, clicking rhythm and processed Rite of Spring-style symphonic punctuation. Everything works itself into a calculated frenzy; d’Orion and Dontigny are careful to keep their mix tight and pristine until they bust into an atmospheric film of sine waves, fragmented and carefully placed breakbeats, nearly exploding again but happy to perch under a cloud of low-frequency feedback. Next up, Onanisme is sure to raise eyebrows in the concert hall and while waking up the professor’s bored children, who’ll exclaim, “This is fun!” It employs an irresistible Neu/Crass quasi-disco beat, founded on a distorted handclap/bass drum pattern and manic, twirling basslines, that weaves and grows, keeping time but having its way with the meter. Guests Diane Labrosse (of Justine and a flock of other acts) and Martin Tétreault (visual artist/turntablist, currently concerned with the sound of the (turntable) motor) add their contributions throughout the disc, notably on Sélavy, where needles meet concrete, machine hum faces envelope filters and Loverboy’s Hot Blooded joins a nuclear aftermath for a picnic in a fallout shelter. Otomo Yoshihide joins m_d_m for Omlegging, bringing his signature “no-record turntable” fidgets, scrapes to trade off with Tétreault and the boys.
Of course, this genre owes a great deal to the pioneers of the Twentieth Century, from Dadaists to Constructivists to even Classicists. d’Orion and Dontigny are well aware of this foundation, but after they tutor you for your final in Semiotics 502, they’ll drag you along for a night of beers and mischief.