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Review

Jay Jay Erickson, Panpot, February 9, 2006

You’ve got to appreciate how Montréal percussionist Michel F Côté can turn on a dime. In early 2005, he delivered the semi-improvisational Mecha Fixes Clock with its crisp electronic percussion moments, an album which sat adjacent to some of his previous experimental work (and some may have captured his early performance at the 2005 FIMAV with local hero Martin Tétreault). But he’s always been a little unpredictable, and that not only highlights his personality, but it especially sums up this cow-poke of an album — crafted with charm, warmth and appreciated escapism.

For all of its trot & swagger, Flat fourgonnette (Mescal free style) strangely brings to mind a flood of gritty inspirations; drawn-out spaghetti westerns, old decrepit vehicles, Ennio Morricone’s free-experimental work (minus the violence and drama), old silly top hats, and the lazy blues of drunken afternoons. I use the adverb “strangely” because this twisted recording somehow manages to delightfully capture the audible portion of an optical illusion, without any overt use of psychedelics. I very much like the way grain-fed insertions of Billy Holiday (or someone similar in depth), Hank Williams and Mississippi John Hurt are mixed into the fold, often sounding as if the group is either playing over the track, or mystically taking its cue from the essence of these performers.

Côté was admittedly influenced by the American songbook for this creation, or rather the folklore of American culture, via an exploratory blend of country and western classicisms (the glockenspiel and the rhythmic cowboy percussion Côté refers to as “cheap foot-rhythms”), playful waltzes (using a cheeky organ or a rolling piano), jazzy flirtations (utilizing the trumpet, trombone and Dixieland vibe), and southern blues atmospherics (notably with the accordion and the liberal use of slide guitars) — served with a distinctive slice of Quebec humor, especially in the spoken introduction to Cheval mort.

One thing is certain, these songs are loose; many are like lazy horses tired from the afternoon sun, periodically hallucinating from a lack of water — sheepishly waiting as their masters soak things up inside the saloon.

… unpredictable… sums up this cow-poke of an album — crafted with charm, warmth and appreciated escapism.

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