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7 January 2018
By Richard Allen in A Closer Listen, January 7, 2018

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“One of the wildest albums of the new year comes from Montréal composer Jean Derome.”

One of the wildest albums of the new year comes from Montréal composer Jean Derome. Even a quick look at the back of the CD, and one knows one is in for a treat: 20 performers on instruments ranging from tuned kalimbas to trombones. The tuning is to 60 Hz, the standard tuning of North American electricity, and the album is exactly 60 minutes long (although billed as 59:59). As one might expect, currents abound. Derome is interested in all manner of electricity: “current, flow, power, voltage, resistance, circuit, motor, pulse and frequency.” We hope our readers will forgive the obvious statement: this album is electric.

The performers treat restraints as opportunities, typically improvising around a theme, wherever the conductor has placed their seats. A sweet cacophony builds to overload on Étagement des fréquences, implying that all of the performers are having a blast; the ensuing bleats of Aurores boréales are like those of a pleasant reveler on New Year’s Eve. And of course some of the instruments require electricity to work, notably the turntable and iPad, while the others rely on currents for amplification and recording.

The eight-note eruption of Tableau eventually leads to a restrained explosion of drums, skirting on the edge of accessibility, playing with emotions and expectations. There’s little use for the avant-garde if it’s just noise and meandering. This track serves as a wink to the audience, and is helpful in creating a sense that such moments will be doled out throughout the release. Nothing here will be a hit, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make an impact. The onomatopoeia of Vamp produces a similar effect, while the army of metronomes in Fréquences-métronomes makes it sound like a clock shoppe.

As the album progresses, it veers wildly from side to side like a bowling ball in a bumper lane. The composer draws wide lines, but there are lines, a loose focus that allows for creativity on an expanded playground. If one is tempted to play along, making noises with one’s mouth or tapping the objects in the living room, Derome would likely be pleased. We all have electricity running though us, enough to carry static shocks, fire synapses, and make balloons rubbed in the hair stick to walls. This album highlights our common connection, and celebrates the energy it produces.

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1 December 2017
By Tom Greenland in The New York City Jazz Record (USA), December 1, 2017

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1 December 2017
By Marc Chénard in La Scena Musicale #23:4 (Québec), December 1, 2017

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“… l’ensemble ressort davantage, dans un premier temps par des jeux d’improvisation collective dirigée et, dans un second, par une ligne thématique en fin de parcours.”

Récipiendaire d’une bourse de carrière en 2013, Jean Derome a investi son pécule dans une série de projets spéciaux. Le premier, créé en mai 2015, fait l’objet de ce tout nouveau disque lancé le 14 décembre. Pour saisir la pleine portée de cette entreprise, de loin la plus ambitieuse de Derome, une lecture des notes de l’artiste s’impose. En bref, l’œuvre entière repose sur la fréquence de 60 Hz, norme utilisée dans le réseau hydro-électrique nord-américain. En musique, cela se traduit par une note située entre le si bémol et le si naturel, celle-ci servant de tonalité de base. Derome explore donc la microtonalité, ce qui nécessite une certaine adaptation de l’oreille au début. Pour réaliser sa vision, le compositeur a recruté 19 collègues jouant toute une gamme d’instruments, incluant des synthés et tourne-disques. À une seconde près des 60 minutes et divisé en 16 plages, le disque se déploie assez lentement dans la première moitié. Outre un ostinato de basse quasi ellingtonien dans la sixième plage, il y a peu de matière compositionnelle dans cette tranche; il faudra donc attendre la dixième plage et les suivantes pour que l’ensemble ressorte davantage, dans un premier temps par des jeux d’improvisation collective dirigée et, dans un second, par une ligne thématique en fin de parcours. En tant que disque, cette œuvre conceptuelle pèche par des longueurs, mais ceux qui ont pu assister à la captation en concert de cet enregistrement le printemps dernier au Gesù pourront sans doute avoir un autre… buzz.

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1 December 2017
By Claude Colpaert in Revue & Corrigée #114 (France), December 1, 2017

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1 December 2017
By Claude Colpaert in Revue & Corrigée #114 (France), December 1, 2017

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25 October 2017
By Marc Medwin in The Squid’s Ear (USA), October 25, 2017

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“The results are miraculous. The deeper you dive, the more you find, and the more you’ve been listening, the greater the rewards.”

How deep is the ocean, asks the now-standard tune’s lyrics throughout this half-hour sonic extravaganza. The answer: As deep as the titlewave of sonic signifiers bouncing off the walls of composer Eliot Britton’s diverse, inclusive and warped imagination.

To suggest that Metatron is plunderphonic at its heart is to suggest that Bach and Webern both employed counterpoint, which is to miss the point almost entirely. Reflecting on the piece as a time warp akin to the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is also something approaching an injustice. Both are true and false, as music can present the simultaneities toward which speech struggles. Aided by the empathetically excellent work of Architek Percussion, Britton offers a series of quantum leaps through the development of technology, its attendant audio history and many of the signifiers therein as viewed through a 21st century lens.

The results are miraculous. The deeper you dive, the more you find, and the more you’ve been listening, the greater the rewards. From the radical percussion works of Varese to the bleeps, brips and braps of early 1980s video games, from Whispering Jack Smith to those ambient tintinnabulations of middle 1970s ECM discs, from swinging Ella Fitzgerald to “Blue Skies” as it might be heard on the Minus label, all is referenced for listener gratification. If it were that simple, the piece might fail; there is a narrative, a beautifully touching and often laugh-out-loud meta-story of how development and recurrence partner on some vast cosmic dancefloor, converging and diverging in spirals of heartfelt reminiscence. If that weren’t enough, the piece begins and ends in C, more or less. How’s that for convention?

Again, were the recording not absolutely spectacular, those retro-washes of synth magic, the sudden gear-shifts and the constant illusions to old and beloved pop tunes would be lost in the fray. They aren’t, and it is to the credit of all involved that this is one of the most extraordinary, confrontational and often gorgeous trips through timbral history that I’ve encountered.

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