In the press
Among many amazing things that happened there was a gamelan performance in the middle of the jungle by musicians who had to pile all their instruments on the backs of elephants and flee Burma because they made music that criticized the government.
This is a unique and sophisticated work.
Nilan Perera, Exclaim!, August 1, 2006This is where the human voice approaches the realm of true punk rock attitude…
Nilan Perera, Exclaim!, April 10, 2006Bruiducoeur is a strong and challenging work.
Nilan Perera, Exclaim!, December 13, 2005Well crafted, instinctive and with the perfect combination of nail-you-to-the-wall attack and meditative buzz
This release by Rainer Wiens plots the latest facet of musical progression by one of Canada’s most creative artists. The subtext of groove provides a rich base for compositions that are populated by a multi-level chorus of songs. These songs range from the literal representations of birds to interwoven melodies that dance with each other and have a remarkable habit of staying in the listener’s memory. Wiens’ extensive study of West African rhythms has informed much of this CD but it’s nowhere near as straightforward as the simple application of rhythms. In No Obvious Solution, for example, the groove cooks happily along, and one rests comfortably in its wake, but then the rhythms morph into permutations that leave Africa for parts unknown. This extrapolation is the result of a carefully thought-out method that takes each instrumental part and rephrases it to the point of vertigo — quite an ear-opening and remarkable experience. Wiens’ sophisticated use of rhythm plus an adherence to clear and beautiful harmonic material has borne fruit in a music that someone can not only react to as a listener but, like all good popular music, can also comfortably inhabit as a participant. However, the music isn’t the only thing that informs this CD. The title isn’t simply a political slogan; it represents a lived experience.
What’s the story behind the title?
Wiens: I was working on this music at the same time the political demonstrations were happening in Burma in 2007 and it brought up memories of a trip I made there in 1991. During that journey, I was smuggled across the border from Thailand to visit with the rebel Karen tribesmen. It was an incredible experience. Among many amazing things that happened there was a gamelan performance in the middle of the jungle by musicians who had to pile all their instruments on the backs of elephants and flee Burma because they made music that criticized the government. In spite of incredible hardship, the people in this camp were friendly and generous and I felt humbled by their ability to smile in the face of tragedy. As a result, I developed a strong attachment to this warm and courageous community. Sadly, all the friends I met there were later killed in raids by the Burmese military.
And how did this affect you in 2007
Wiens: This memory gave me the emotional push to complete the music, get the ensemble organized and make the CD. I then decided to dedicate all the proceeds to the people of Burma via the Buddhist monks, who have set up an aid network that bypasses the military dictatorship.
One of the true measures of artistic and creative ability is the discipline of limited means — what to do with a ukulele, a suitcase and a repertoire of charmingly idiosyncratic melodies whose execution has a built in tendency to fall apart? Myk Freedman’s Saint Dirt Elementary School ensemble have long since mastered the inverse improvisation aesthetic of deconstructing into nothingness while maintaining forward motion. Haynes and Martin have not only approached Freedman’s melodies with sympathy and respect but have extended the tribute to include some of the same wondrous dissolutions, as well as some taut and focused explorations. One of the aspects straightforward composition affords improvisers is the freedom to inhabit and expand without getting ensnared in complexity. Haynes and Martin have succeeded in compounding magic with more magic and opening a sunny space for all.
Joane Hétu, Diane Labrosse and Danielle Palardy Roger have been making music for over a decade in various groupings but retaining throughout the femme Québécois auteur atheistic. Hétu’s voice scats ruminatively in some forgotten language, dancing with the clatter and joust of Roger’s percussion. These two connect wonderfully as protagonists as Labrosse’s samples provide stately interventions and observations as varied as tamboura—like drones and bubbling water. There is great mystery in this music, as one feels the familiarity of being with the sounds of home and the outdoors yet trying to understand that strange radio station that seems to tune in and out. While this music may be described as soundscapes, it has too much of the insistent narrative of an improvisational through line to be a passive listen, and it is the narrative of three women that rises out of it all. This is a unique and sophisticated work.
I was just thinking about the human voice. Mostly everyone has one, uses one and it’s pretty much the basis for eminent music publications. Well kiddies, Idiolalla is two women with voices and one drummer with style. This is where the human voice approaches the realm of true punk rock attitude; not only are they not going to tell you what they’re talking about and leave you to make up your own mind but they’re going to make you laugh, roll your eyes and scare you into the bargain. The departure this CD takes from the avant-art-whatever genre of sound-singing is the inclusion of the awe-inspiring drumming of Jean Martin and Duncan and Boyko tag-teaming everything from basso growling to Japanese pop squeaks to faux light opera and Monty Python shanties. Mad skills and no fear to boot.
Choral music rarely gets let out of the box these days. One gets the odd recording of vocal work that has some interesting directions, but rarely does one get such a tour de force as is presented on this disc. Roger, who is no stranger to text-based work, has created a tale of a man at the end of his life, frightened and half-crazed, attended by a female witness describing his state and the choir and soloists as the society that surround him. The piece itself is composed for 13-piece choir, two soloists, two narrators and two percussionists. A number of things provided me with ways into this work. The repetitive nature of the text brought Steve Reich and Meredith Monk into the picture and the music is somewhat reminiscent of Berio or Ligeti, but more to the point; a lot of it reminded me of what a Diamanda Galas solo might sound like if it was arranged for multiple voices. There are interludes where the soloists improvise like a pack of rabid dogs, as well as beautifully stark ensemble sections that rise and fall like grey cloud. The two percussionists provide segues and accompaniments that provide a near perfect counterpoint to the voices. Bruiducoeur is a strong and challenging work.
Martin Tétreault and Otomo Yoshihide are old hands at the art of the noise and you skronk kids should pay attention. Well crafted, instinctive and with the perfect combination of nail-you-to-the-wall attack and meditative buzz, 2. Tok is the middle and most dynamic of a three-CD set of live recordings. There’s lots of space, conversation and a wide variety of texture. On top of that there’s an odd feeling one gets that these two have listened to their share of pop music. And we are all better for it.