If you’re an adventurous listener who’s curious about the seemingly endless parade of avant-garde jazz and improv music streaming in all directions from Montréal’s Ambiances Magnétiques label, this supergroup sampler is a fine place to find your bearings. The Ensemble is a large and loose collective whose “members” include people like Jean Derome, Martin Tétreault, Joane Hétu and Sam Shalabi. This CD is… kind of confusing, so I’ll let the liner notes explain - Canevas «+» “is a collage made from 14 sound excerpts taken from five different concerts by Ensemble SuperMusique presented between 1998 and 2004”. Each concert had a specific theme. One from October of 2000, for example, was an homage to folk singer/songwriter Mary Travers, known as “La Bolduc”. As that explanation implies, this is a shaky, inconsistent album that’s hard to swallow whole, but it covers such a wide spectrum of experimental improv that it should have something for everyone.
There’s a lot of potential action and many sparse stretches here. La tulipe is the sound of random (but probably not random) whistles and thwacks created with various implements, tools and appliances. Impro2 sneaks Diane Labrosse’s truly terrifying sampler bursts and other squeals into your drink, while Kristin Molnar’s banshee violin lends a fever dream quality to Le caillou, le cristal et le camion’s batshit-crazy crescendo. Trio sounds like Cecil Taylor on speedballs trading dreamed-up licks with a toy horn-wielding Don Cherry. On a more boring note, Impro 1 is over five minutes of bullshit wank revolving around simulated birdcalls. So even if it’s a mixed bag as an album, Canevas «+» will at least point you to the outer limits players and composers you’ll want to study further.