Mercredimusics is a series of concerts curated by Lori Freedman. Every Wednesdays, 8:30 pm at Casa Obscura (Montréal), Lori hosts intimate improvisation evenings. During the month, she will be joined by Bernard Falaise, Rainer Wiens, Martin Tétreault, Jean Derome, Malcolm Goldstein, John Heward, Danielle Palardy Roger, Joane Hétu and Diane Labrosse. Last Mercredimusics of 2003 is scheduled on December 10.
- Visit the Casa Obscura web site
[…] 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.
Four long electronic improv tracks from this Montréal duo, each with an established pedigree in avant performance: this CD is a recording of a concert that took place at Casa del Popolo in April 2002. There is not a musical instrument in sight: Dontigny manipulates a computer, while Labrosse uses a sampler. The result is a stew of noise, at times oppressive, at others subdued - a powerful and ever shifting web of sound and texture. Ever inventive, the glitchy first track t.s.f. is for me the best of the bunch, with snatches of classical music put through an industrial washing machine on fast cycle. There seems to be a lot of decent music coming out of Canada. Here’s some more of it.
Enregistré le 8 mars 2003 dans le cadre du festival Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques, alors que La Nef lançait son secteur “musiques nouvelles” afin, essentiellement, de susciter une rencontre entre les compositeurs d’aujourd’hui et la musique ancienne. Bien sûr, l’instrument ne fait que ce qu’on lui commande de faire et l’on peut aussi bien jouer du blues sur une viole de gambe, aussi les amateurs de musique ancienne ne trouveront pas leur compte ici. Parce que Robert Marcel fait du Lepage, une indéfinissable musique “contractuelle”, comme il le dit si bien, et avec un très bel ensemble de 10 musiciens plus jazzmen que ménestrels. Viole, violon et contrebasse; trompette, trombone et flûte; échantillonneur, banjo et percussions: un effectif éclectique pour une musique à l’avenant. Léger. 3/5
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.
Tetreault’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.”
Drôle de couple que celui-là, qui relie musique médiévale et musique, actuelle pour en faire une tapisserie sonore sans âge, grouillante d’une faune de bruits et de sons qui n’ont pas l’habitude de fréquenter les mêmes pistes. Les clarinette, chifonie ou cornemuse de Pierre Langevin et les madriophone, boîte à languettes et harmonica banane de Pierre Tanguay transplantent l’ère médiévale sur la planète Mars. On est aussi loin de l’ensemble de folklore moyenâgeux Strada, dont Langevin est directeur et Tanguay percussionniste, que des concoctions actualistes d’un René Lussier, que les deux Pierrots ont beaucoup fréquenté. Une très belle prise de son de Robert Langlois transforme le tout en un festival de textures et de timbres. Reposant.3,5/5