Compil zouave

Michel F Côté

Côté tel un brise-glace fou fend la banquise de son navire incontrôlable. Attendons avec impatience les prochaines sorties du Saint Père. ImproJazz, France

Personne n’aura jamais rien entendu de pareil. Et pour tout dire, moi non plus! Le Soleil, Québec

With this new collaborative album, Michel F Côté mixes science, alcohol, and battery of defective phonometers. On “Compil Zouave,” we are treated with new compositions treading on semi-jazz, neo-reggae and lo-fly grounds, among other such variable genres.

CD (AM 067)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 067
  • 1999
  • UCC 771028106721
  • Total duration: 73:54
  • Jewel case
  • 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
  • 95 g

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In the press

Michel F Côté

David Turgeon,, June 29, 2003

As we begin this series of articles on various catalogue-related themes, why not start with the hardest artist to pin down from the Ambiances Magnétiques collective: prolific and eclectic drummer Michel F Côté.

A late arrival to the Ambiances Magnétiques roster (joining in 1988), Côté readily put himself on the fringe of various geometrically variable groups. He could be heard for the first time in the debut Bruire album, Le barman a tort de sourire, a surprise box with no less than 14 guest musicians. Bruire is Côté’s very poetic project-group, in which he plays with the language of avant-garde, song and ambient music. This album launched a trilogy which continued in an increasingly mature vein with Les Fleurs de Léo, to end with the unforgettable L’âme de l’objet. This travelling in three steps has given us the chance to hear collaborators such as Geneviève Letarte, Jerry Snell, René Lussier, Ikue Mori, Claude St-Jean and Jean Derome, all of whom helped to feed our drummer’s fertile imagination.

More than six years passed before a new Bruire project could be heard, this one a very different beast: Chants rupestres, an improv quatuor with Jean Derome, Normand Guilbeault and Martin Tétreault. In fact, during these six years, Côté had been working on other projects which were increasingly more… deconstructed. The first sequels of this could be seen in a collaboration with Diane Labrosse, a slightly obscure CD purposely entitled Duo déconstructiviste. And if the first (double) album from his new project Klaxon Gueule, Bavards, was to sport a fairly recognisable “rock” energy, this project would soon see Côté at his most abstract.

The least we can say is that the release of Muets, a shiny minimalist jewel completely at odds with Bavards, would be a surprise to most listeners. One thing was for sure though, this new CD, released in 1999, was certainly more in phase with its era than the Duo déconstructiviste which was, in retrospect, perhaps too much in advance on its time. But this change was also due to the aesthetic evolution of doublebassist Alexandre St-Onge who, from a relatively “classical” playing, was to suddenly turn to a rather more conceptual approach towards his instrument. Côté and guitarist Bernard Falaise were thrilled to follow their bandmate in this new direction. Their latest album, Grain (recorded with Sam Shalabi and Christof Migone), confirmed this tendancy while pushing it even further into sophistication, making this work one of Côté’s most accomplished of his discography.

But the drummer did not stop there and reappeared where no one was expecting him. Thus, with Éric Bernier and Guy Trifiro, he created a new group, Bob, whose new disc, Unstable Friends, just came out. Under some fairly deviant and attractive cover artwork, a return to the bizarre “pop” music from Bruire’s beginnings is taking shape! We also heard through the grapevine that a new project called Mecca Fixes Clock (in which we can recognise the composer’s initials!) which could be described as orchestral ambient. Is Côté returning to his first loves?

If it isn’t so easy to give an overview of Michel F Côté as a musician, then that might be because his work goes beyond just music. In fact, one can often hear our protagonist at the theatre and in performance art, with such creators as Robert Lepage and Catherine Tardif. This aspect of his work finds its echo on Compil zouave, so far the only disc released under the composer’s name. We should also mention Côté’s previous involvement as a radioshow host at Radio-Canada amongst others, and his writing for contemporary arts magazine Esse.

Michel F Côté may best be seen as a kind of barometer of Ambiances Magnétiques’ creative activity throughout the years: from the song-form experiments of the 1980s through the peculiar lyrical impro-composition which was the signature sound of the AM catalogue in the 1990s, to continue with a more extreme form of improvisation, based on the physical existence of the instrument.


Frank Rubolino, Cadence, no. 26:3, March 1, 2000

On his eclectic recording on, Côté has assembled varying groups of notable French Canadian musicians to play mostly original material in a very unorthodox way. His bands range from duos to sextets and each uses an approach to music that is certainty atypical. The music has an eerie sense of illusionism to it, being comprised of electronic and acoustic effects that make the listening experience a strange one. Côté is not a traditional percussionist. He uses various objects and electronic devices to set up odd and asymmetrical rhythm patterns and special effects. He is also a strong advocate of using electronic impulses, dial twisting, and recorded insertions with his music. For example, Chet Baker is in the background on the Let’s Get Lost trip, and elsewhere, turntable static and odd effects filter into the mix to substantiate further the nonuniform nature of the program.

All of his cohorts join in on the fun to give the session its flexible. unpredictable appeal. Derome’s strong playing on baritone and the other reeds is more accessible as is the untypical mellow blowing from trombonist Walsh. Most others go off regularty on diverse tangents. Fradette and Falaise allernate with their unusual approach to guitar playing and others wander in and out of the music in theatric, off-the-wall style. Côté mixes Japanese koto music with etectronic imputses on one piece, white overtaid operatic voices or weird time changes suddenly seem commonplace on other tunes.

Côté appears to be trying to convince us that weirdness is the standard but just when you start gening used to this styte he switches to a very straight-ahead, tongue-in-cheek rendition of a song to prevent you from getting comfortable. His music seems to be designed to keep you off balance. and he succeeds in that endeavor.


Luc Bouquet, ImproJazz, no. 62, February 1, 2000

Compil zouave exercice d’iconoclastie comparée à usage papal. Grand ordonnateur de l’engin: Michel F Côté, musicien - conseil - phonométriste basé à Montréal. Percussionniste sacrilège el hérétique maladif. Sans espoir de guérison aucun. Prenons le reggae par exemple. Pourquoi un tel acharnement? trauma enfantin (son père le frappait-il à coup de dreadlocks), surdose de ganja? toujours est-il que Côte fait subir à la musique jamaïcaine les pires outrages. Le musicien possède un sens aigu de la désorganisation érigée en œuvre d’art, un détournement permanent qui réjouit. Mais avoir les rieurs de son côté ne suffit pas, encore faut-il que l’exercice soit profitable à l’auditeur. C’est le cas me semble-t-il. La musique peut paraître aquatique (Lujon), spatiale (100%B. B. Q. ), dérapante (Ouyouyouille), Côté tel un brise-glace fou fend la banquise de son navire incontrôlable. Attendons avec impatience les prochaines sorties du Saint Père. Peut-être le verrons nous esquisser quelques pas de danse. Ce sera alors le signe de la reconnaissance suprême pour Côté. Le péril zouave nous menace. Préparons-nous.

Côté tel un brise-glace fou fend la banquise de son navire incontrôlable. Attendons avec impatience les prochaines sorties du Saint Père.


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 42, December 1, 1999

Cet exercice de phonométrie populaire, tel que l’auteur définit ce recueil, très british d’approche — on pense entre autres aux altérations beresfordiennes — dégage un fort parfum de nonchalance. L’apport de la trompette de Pierre Bastien, présent sur quelques titres, des rythmes placides de ses mécaniums, n’est pas étranger à ce caractère. Mais il n’y a certes pas que cela. Il y a ces manipulations diverses, pour lesquelles Côté est réduit à créer des néologismes succulents pour les évoquer, faute de mieux: batteries cabochonnes. japonaiseries et bridages, manustuprations génétiques, qui constituent autant d’invitations à mettre son nez — et la main de sa sœur! — dans cette compil zouave à laquelle participent, outre le sus-nommé Pierre Bastien, la famille du magnétisme ambiant (Derome, Falaise, Hétu, Labrosse, Tétreault. Fradette…) et quelques autres, qui au koto, qui au feeling canin ou au crooning approximatif, multipliant les approches et les rythmes (même reggae).


Pierre-Paul Noreau, Le Soleil, November 12, 1999

Vous vous auto-flattez le rebondi d’avoir l’esprit aussi ouvert! Vous ne dédaignez pas non plus une petite épate à susciter de sincères: “Jamais entendu ça C’est bon c’técoeurant” Et vous avez le cœur résolument festif. Voici l’incontournable de votre prochaine soirée “Moi-même and friends”. Promesse de souverain pontife, la compil zouave va tous les laisser gaga et bouche la bée. Personne n’aura jamais rien entendu de pareil. Et pour tout dire, moi non plus! Le percussionniste Michel F Côté qui a l’insigne honneur d’avoir signé avec Bernard Falaise l’incroyable Encore un peu de saké?, japonaiserie extraite de la bande sonore du film (Robert Lepage), s’est offert le plus insolite bric-à-brac de musiques éthyliques, question de trouver un prétexte pour s’amuser avec une vingtaine de musiciens parmi les plus actifs de la scène zouaviste québécoise! Du boulot de pros qui percute tout azimut, passant du cosmic-jazz, au lo-fly, au néo-reggae et autres indescriptibles modes d’expression dont le point commun d’ancrage est le bonheur de sa rythmique et le plaisir épidermique suscité!

Personne n’aura jamais rien entendu de pareil. Et pour tout dire, moi non plus!


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 196, October 25, 1999

One of the seven collaborators on this release is M. F. Côté, who is responsible for another release by Ambiances magnétiques. Côté plays drums and live electronics. He is composer and improviser. All these qualities can be enjoyed on this solo-album “Compil Zouave”. Côté composed for dance, theatre and film. He is known for his work in the Bruire ensemble. He is also a first-generation member of the Ambiances magnétiques collective. His compositions on this solo-effort are played by an ensemble of 20 musicians, Pierre Bastien and Martrin Tétreault among others. It is difficult to find out what kind of game Côté is playing here. Very humorous music, no boring persiflage’s. Here is played with much musical wit with the music of Miles Davis, Chet Baker, reggae, eastern music, etc. Fake jazz, semi-jazz Call it how you like. Deconstruction may be a good name for the way Côté uses the music of Baker and others. Inventive and original where you wonder it comes from. It gives a new and very interesting light as to how reinterpret already existing music.

It gives a new and very interesting light as to how reinterpret already existing music. […] Very humorous music, no boring persiflage’s.


Jason Jackowiak, Splendid E-Zine, October 25, 1999

Ever had one of those dreams where you have no idea where you are or how you got there but everything there is upside down, tilted to the left and backwards? And then you wind up falling down a big hole and landing in the velvet lined cocktail lounge of a hotel bar? If so, Compil zouave is perfect for you. It’s an album that defies catagorization; oh, you could try to pigeonhole it in any one of 20 musical categories, only to have it change directions 5 seconds later, leaving you right back where you started. Côté, joined by a cast of over 20 other musicians (including your favorite Ambiances Magnétiques stars! - Ed. ), has created a supernatural sound collage that’s not sure if its coming or going. Some songs sound like free jazz, others resemble drum-n-bass, percolating coffee makers, circus music or random sample-fests played on a malfunctioning turntable. The result is a wonderfully cohesive space odyssey, rather than the garbled mess you might expect of an album this musically diverse. Let’s Get Lost is reminiscent of a 60’s blaxploitation soundtrack, Bavaroise sounds like middle-eastern funk, replete with gratuitous saxophone stabs and opera-like vocals and I Can’t Give You Anything But Love is a Bachrach-style ballad that I’m sure you’ll be hearing in the bar of a Holiday Inn some time soon. What makes Compil zouave so impressive is its ability to “nail” musical genres without compromising its varied and adventurous nature. So grab six or seven different bottles of liquor and a glass, throw on Compil zouave and prepare yourself to be amazed — or perhaps, if you can’t hold your liquor, sick.


Tom Schulte, Slug, October 15, 1999
4.5 out of five stars.

Délire actuel: Critique

François Couture, CFLX 95.5 FM, September 14, 1999

Michel F Côté est l’un des fondateurs du collectif Ambiances magnétiques. À travers les années, il s’est surtout illustré avec son groupe Bruire, mais il a également participé à plusieurs autres projets et collaboré avec tous les musiciens actuels québécois. Il compose également beaucoup pour la scène et l’écran. Batteur de formation, il n’en est pas moins polyvalent musicalement et compositionellement. C’est d’ailleurs ce que nous prouve Compil zouave, un disque hétéroclite sur lequel règne néanmoins une atmosphère de candeur et d’irrévérence.

Sur ce disque, Côté est entouré d’une pléiade de musiciens, incluant les habituels d’Ambiances magnétiques (Jean Derome, Guillaume Dostaler, Bernard Falaise, Joane Hétu, Diane Labrosse et Martin Tétreault) et des moins habituels tels Éric Bernier, Serge Boisvert, Luc Bonin, Normand Guilbeault, Emiko Toguchi et même le comédien Julien Poulin. Les musiques empruntent au jazz, au reggae, au traditionnel japonais, au bavarois et à plusieurs courants innommables. On trouve quelques reprises de standards du jazz, dont Let’s Get Lost, dénaturé à souhait. Le tout prend l’allure d’une fantasme musical, un voyage à travers l’onirisme de Côté qui nous fait passer d’une influence à l’autre, sans jamais que ces influences ne soient entièrement définies. On passe ainsi du reggae instable de Verschwinde et Toubab au collage de You’ve Changed (remix), neuf minutes pendant lesquelles Guy Trifiro échantillonne les disques précédents de Côté pour nous montrer son évolution, pour enfin déboucher sur Encore un peu de saké?, un extrait de la trame sonore du film Nô de Robert Lepage.

Compil zouave, malgré ses diverses tangentes, demeure un disque cohérent et d’une approche facile. En cela, il me rappelle Les clarinettes ont-elles un escalier de secours? de Robert Marcel Lepage. Ce genre de disques peut devenir l’introduction parfaite à une musique différente, engageante. La musique actuelle

Ce genre de disques peut devenir l’introduction parfaite à une musique différente, engagente, la musique actuelle.


Jeff Bugz, emoRAGEi, no. 8, September 1, 1999

Un nouvel effort plutôt jazzy de Monsieur Michel F Côté avec l’aspect impro de plusieurs collaborateurs. Un des ses collaborateurs à attiré mon attention Julien Poulin. 0ui, notre King national! Il fait une apparition sur la pièce I can’t give you anything but love, une pièce jazz où Julien semble s’amuser avec ses “baby” par-ci, par-là…En bref, une panoplie de musiciens interprètent ici un jazz parfois déconstruit, pour votre salon. 7/10

… ici un jazz parfois déconstruit, pour votre salon.


David Lewis, Exclaim!, September 1, 1999

Once you hear his band jam and sing with Chet Baker as they play along to an old record of Let’s Get Lost, you realise that here is a musical adventure that demands you share tbe anarchic fun. His manic vision always sounds at its most compelling and provocative when he combines it with,the guitar of Fradette and trombone of Tom Walsh to explore funky fusion Ouyouyouille, reggae Verschwinde/Toubab and the mid-tempo vamp of Egomegacoma. For inspired bad teste even Weird Al would be pusked to match such world music parodies as Encore un peu de saké and Bavaroise.


Catherine Perrey, Ici Montréal, June 24, 1999

Sur la pochette de l’album, Michel F Côté, batteur-percussionniste et compositeur, se définit comme musicien-conseil-phonométriste. On ajouterait volontiers installateur-conseil en climats sonores, tant les pièces rassemblées sur cette compile témoignent du talent manifeste de Côté à créer des atmosphères délicates pour la danse, le cinéma et le théâtre, sans parler de sa propension polissonne à la rigolade bon enfant et au pastiche. On notera quelques beaux spécimens tissés reggae, que l’on balancerait bien plein pot sur les ondes radiophoniques pour une cure estivale, Miles Davis revisité par Pierre Bastien et Martin Tétreault, et de petites coquetteries de salon délurées bien senties.

On notera quelques beaux spécimens tissés reggae, que l’on balancerait bien plein pot sur les ondes radiophoniques pour une cure estivale…


François Couture, AllMusic, June 1, 1999

Michel F Côté’s most known projects are Bruire and Klaxon Gueule, but he participates in many other musical ventures and collaborates with every avant-garde musician in Montréal. He also writes a lot for the stage and the screen. A drummer in essence, he is nonetheless very versatile both in playing and writing, and that’s what Compil zouave is proving with its eclectic contents dominated by a candid and irreverent mood. On this record, Côté is surrounded by an impressive number of musicians, including his usual Ambiances Magnétiques pals, plus some less regulars like Éric Bernier, Serge Boisvert, Luc Bonin, Normand Guilbeault, Emiko Toguchi and even actor Julien Poulin. Some jazz standards can be spotted, including “Let’s Get Lost,” tastefully mutated, but overall the music is rooted in avant-gardist pop/rock following the Montréal musique actuelle approach. The whole thing takes the form of a musical phantasm, a journey through Côté’s hallucinosis, taking us from one influence to the next without ever clearly defining any of them. The listener goes from the unstable reggae of Verschwinde and Toubab to the collage You’ve Changed (Remix) (nine minutes during which Guy Trifiro samples Côté’s earlier records to show his evolution), to Encore un peu de saké?, taken from the soundtrack to Robert Lepage’s movie Nô.

Compil zouave, even with its many musical tendencies, remains a cohesive record of broad appeal, reminiscent of Robert Marcel Lepage’s Les clarinettes ont-elles un escalier de secours? Destabilizing, less delicate and profound than Bruire, less immediate and challenging than Klaxon Gueule, but quite enjoyable. Recommended.

… a cohesive record of broad appeal… Recommended.


Dwight Loop, Earwaves Network, January 1, 1999

Take avant jazz, throw in some reggae grooves, wild voices and intense energy and you’ve got another DAME release worth noting.