… it would aptly describe this remarkably entertaining record. — Signal to Noise, USA
This is instantly one of the best of 2006. — wReck thiS MeSS, Netherlands
With Michel F Côté, we never know what to expect! This time, his new project is nothing less than a gunfight at the OK Corral, and no one knows who, between country or actuelle music, will walk away the winner… Flat fourgonnette (that can be very rougly translated as “Flat pick-up truck (Mescal free style)”), is Michel F Côté’s attempt at “american” music: hybrid, unpredictable and funny.
“This is an album of American music. There are cowboys and horses, a saloon and its pretty manageress, an Italian immigrant, a love story, a ride through the desert, and even an Indian or two. Nothing experimental, 100% animal. Flat Fourgonnette is like an old story-telling buffalo; his imprecise recollections are endearing. I like hesitations and mistakes – they are more poetic, more revealing than the olympic, boring virtuosity we are used to. Yee-Haw!!!” —MFC
To produce the album, he brought together a number of talented and trusty partners, including: Bernard Falaise (guitars), Frédéric Boudreault (bass), Claude Fradette (guitars), Frank Martel (theremin), and AnneBruce Falconer & Billie Folliday (vocals).
- Composer(s): Michel F Côté, Bernard Falaise, Frédéric Boudreault, Claude Fradette, Luc Bonin, Jean Derome
- Performer(s): Bernard Falaise, Frédéric Boudreault, Claude Fradette, Frank Martel, AnneBruce Falconer, Billie Holiday, Luzio Altobelli, Clarence Ashley, Lou Babin, Serge Boisvert, Luc Bonin, Jean Derome, Guillaume Dostaler, Dorothy Fields, Normand Guilbeault, Mississippi John Hurt, Coley Jones, Robert Langlois, Jean-Denis Levasseur, Jimmy McHugh, Bernard Poirier, Némo Venba, Tom Walsh
- Graphic design: Fabrizio Gilardino
- 1Slow Town, 3:46
- 2My Girl, 2:59
- 3Finale à Falaise, 2:24
- 4Cheval mort, 3:14
- 5Cowboy à pied, 1:02
- 6Spike Driver Blues, 3:51
- 7Sitting Bull, 2:34
- 8Yeux de Lucie, 3:24
- 9Cœur de Giovanni, 1:44
- 10Parti longtemps, 2:38
- 11The Prairies, 2:58
- 13Vision d’homme blanc, 1:40
- 14House Carpenter, 1:57
- 15Départ à Fradette, 2:20
- 16Medium Town, 1:35
- 17Drunkard’s Special, 4:49
- 18Boul Curé-Labelle, 2:27
- 19Incendies, 3:33
- Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
- AM 137 / 2005
- UCC 771028113729
- Total duration: 52:57
- Sympathique case
- 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
- 40 g
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In the press
Michel F Côté est un vétéran de la musique actuelle québécoise. Il a touché à toutes sortes de facettes de la musique: au théâtre, au cinéma, en performance, etc. Cette fois-ci, Côté nous présente un voyage en Amérique profonde. Celle du blues et du jazz des Noirs. Celle de la belle époque de Billie Holliday et de Mississippi John Hurt. Évidemment, du blues à la sauce Côté, ce n’est pas du Clapton! Sur ce Flat fourgonnette, le batteur est accompagné par une bande de copains virtuoses: Bernard Falaise et Claude Fradette aux guitares, Fred Boudreault et Normand Guilbeault à la basse, Frank Martel au theremin. Les Guillaume Dostaler, Tom Walsh, Lou Babin et Jean Derome, pour ne nommer que ceux-là, viennent aussi faire leur tour. On y note deux tendances générales, toutes deux très intéressantes. La bande à Côté offre parfois des blues et des jazz déjantés, comme pris dans la mélasse. Autre curiosité digne de mention, plusieurs morceaux ont été enregistrés en jouant par-dessus la bande originale d’un air des grands du jazz ou du blues. Guitares «slide», basse et batterie se joignent ainsi au vieux 33-tours grincheux qui sert d’inspiration et de chanson de base. On l’a tous fait en essayant de repiquer des solos, mais rarement avec autant de créativité. Immense reste le respect pour l’œuvre originale.
Avec ces deux enregistrements, le musicien québécois nous offre deux univers totalement différents. Sans prétention avant-gardiste, Flat Fourgonnette est une collection de pièces à la mode country / folk / rock / blues aux mélodies parfois empruntées aux Irlandais. Elles présentent une évocation du Middle West et des hautes prairies de l’Ouest américain, avec ses cow-boys, ses Indiens (Sitting Bull), ses filles de saloon… Réalisées avec six partenaires et divers emprunts, elles exhalent un parfum d’authenticité et un enthousiasme non dénué d’humour.
Conçues pour un spectacle chorégraphique, dans lequel Michel F Côté intervenait aussi pour la conception, les 63 apparitions constituent un travail sonore plus expérimental et plutôt étrange fait d’échantillonnages, de sons électroniques, de claviers et de divers objets électriques, avec des références plus particulières au Socrate d’Érik Satie et sa transcription par Cage. Un peu plus courte, semble-t-il, que sa version live, la trame sonore mêle diverses musiques, pour proposer une sorte de jeu chorégraphique dans lequel chacun des cinq solistes choisit sa partition, apparaît (ou disparaît) en fonction de cette trame sonore à cinq repères… D’où le titre de 63 apparitions.
Incredible blend of blues, folk, avant perversions, some actual play-alongs of blues songs — very haunting duets. This is instantly one of the best of 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.
Flat Fourgonnette s’adresse à tous ceux qui chérissent en mots, en notes, en feelings les road movies, les clochards célestes de Jack Kérouac, les originaux atypiques coast to coast, de préférence d’est en ouest, de Moondog à Captain Beefheart, de Violent Femmes aux Long Ryders, de Pavement à The Arcade Fire. Classé un peu vite dans le giron de la musique actuelle, ces dix-neuf courtes pièces mélangent avec une ironie et une dérision omniprésentes des influences blues, country, rock de chambre, jazz, tango, airs de fanfare; le tout agrémenté de collages tantôt atmosphériques, impressionnistes ou rythmés, mais délicieusement déjantés. La livrée est impeccable, l’alignement complet comptant entre autres Bernard Falaise, Fred Boudreault, Claude Fradette, Normand Guilbeault, Jean Derome, etc. Brillant et accessible, Flat Fourgonnette est un album de génie que n’aura pas réalisé Rick Rubin.
Michel F Côté è il percussionista dei Klaxon Gueule, formazione canadese le cui gesta vi abbiamo raccontato nel numero 82 del giornale; più di recente lo abbiamo incontrato nel progetto personale Mecha Fixes Clocks (BU#86/87), al quale peraltro contribuivano anche gli altri due K.G. Bernard Falaise e Alexandre St-Onge. È difatti una sorta di comune-collettivo aperto quello che ruota attorno ai tre nomi, tanto che li troviamo e ritroviamo spesso in vesti soliste e situazioni estemporanee che nascono e muoiono nel giro di un solo disco (vedi, in questo stesso numero, lo splendido CD dei Foodsoon), magari coinvolgendo messi di collaboratori. Che è poi quanto accade anche in questo suo nuovo CD solo («Un western spaghetti pour mon ami Fabrizio Gilardino», scrive nelle note), dove il musicista parte da un’idea-base bluescountry e la coniuga, con un mucchio di strumenti e amici, in tutte le possibili declinazioni: astratto e asincrono (Slow Town), classico e sixties (Cheval mort), prossimo al soul (My Girl) e al bluegrass (Départ à Fradette), ironico e parodistico ( Sitting Bull, The Prairies), jazzato (I Can’t Give You Anything But Love), avant-circense (House Carpenter) e acustico CD (le belle riletture di Spike Driver Blues di Mississippi John Hurt e di Drunkard’s Special del misconosciuto ColeyJones). Flat Fourgonnette è un disco molto piacevole e riuscito, musicalmente distante dai K.G. ma non per questo indegno d’interesse (da leggere e gustare, nelle note, il manifestino del ‘recentismo’, nuovo movimento lanciato da Côté tra il serio e il faceto…). (7)
Québécois have been alternately fascinated and repulsed by the United States — and by extension American music — from the time the French-speaking Canadian province began to assert its distinct identity in the early 1960s. Obvious exceptions like Céline Dion notwithstanding, names and language prevent most Québécois artists from affecting a similar transference to that taken by English Canadians, whose shared language with the masses of English speakers south of the border manifests itself in discomfort with many aspects of American values and culture at the same time as proximity allows them to pass as ersatz Americans. Yet, as anyone who has ever seen Québec situation comedies or pop performers can attest, the lure of the U.S. remains in the independence-minded province.
Percussionist Michel F Côté’s Flat Fourgonnette (Ambiances Magnétiques) is simultaneously a celebration of and a satire on Yankee musical imperialism. A member since 1988 of the Montréal-based Ambiances Magnétiques collective, Côté and the others call their sounds musique actuelle — music of today — and mulch together rock, folk, contemporary classical, jazz, and other influences. Côté, however, is involved with many dramatic, dance, and film projects, to the extent that Flat Fourgonnette’s 19 tracks are often as theatrical as they are musical, with the 20 featured musicians taking on many actorly roles.
A member of ensembles including the jazz-rock trio Klaxon Gueule, the percussionist provides his interpretation of American music by going right to its source: early folk, country, and pop music. Not only does he mix in excerpts from recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, Hank Williams, and Clarence Ashley, to name three, but many of the tunes have a purported country & western background. That isn’t too far-fetched since cowboy hat, bolo tie, and boot-wearing country singers have long been as much a part of rural French-Canadian spectacles as they are in performances elsewhere in North America.
The particular talent of Côté, who plays drums, percussion, harmonica, organ, and sings here, is to produce his own songs written in an idiom similar to the actualités so that there’s no fissure. Accordion, steel guitars, and fiddles, shouted “yee-haws”, pinched-noise harmonies and — as Côté puts it — “poor whistling” are therefore put to use alongside the refined and reliable improvisations of folks like trombonist Tom Walsh and reedist Jean Derome. All in all, the treatment of the material is more like the gentle spoofs of guitarist Eugene Chadbourne than the savage parodies of Frank Zappa.
Among the stand-out tracks are My Girl (“my gal’s a corker/ she’s a New Yorker”) sung in near moribund dead-pan fashion in English by AnneBruce Falconer, whose voice is balanced on top of the quivering soundscape of Bernard Falaise and Claude Fradette’s weeping electric guitars; and Sitting Bull, a 1940s-style faux C&W instrumental featuring speedy fills from Falaise and Frédéric Boudreault on electric bass with Côté contributing vocal gurgling, drum beats, and the rhythmic shaking of a vitamin bottle.
Also featured are sound manipulations such as House Carpenter and Parti longtemps. The latter uses a false stereo echo chamber to have Hank Williams distantly singing one of his more lachrymose ballads, accompanied by what Côté calls “cheap polyrhytme” from the percussionist plus simple guitar licks and metallic slashes from Frank Martel’s theremin. The former mixes stinging rock guitar distortion, backbeat drumming, organ crescendos, and kazoo-like twittering into a four-chord punk rock-like outing, only to have the tune fade into a recording of old timey banjoist Clarence Ashley picking the same rhythm acoustically.
Since Côté describes the CD as being poetic like “an old story-telling buffalo”, whose imprecise recollections include cowboys and horses, a saloon and its pretty manageress, a love story, “and even an Indian or two”, it’s not unfair to note that when his compositions are serious, they take on a certain Old World romantic flavor. Yeux de Lucie, for example, features clarinetist Jean-Denis Levasseur, trumpeter Nemo Venba, trombonist Walsh — a committed jazzer as well as a musique actuelle participant — guitarist Bernard Poirier, and Lou Babin on accordion in a brassy lilt, midway between a fanfare and a tarantella.
Meanwhile Incendies, which completes the program, becomes a Beaux Epoch café waltz performed by Falaise, overdubbed on both electric bass and guitar, Côté on glockenspiel and percussion, and Luzio Altobelli on accordion. Only the squealing split tone from the alto and baritone saxophones of Derome — another long time Ambiances Magnétiques participant, who also plays jazz—hints that this is anything more than easy-listening fluff.
If it sounds middle of the road, at least this tune is musically sophisticated, high-class fluff, just as many of the other compositions transcend satiric origin to reveal the sensitivity at their cores. Flat Fourgonnette, Côté’s “album of American music” shows that the Québécois, like the Dutch and the Italians — and unlike Americans — can amalgamate energy, passion, caricature, and cacophony into a sonic package. Without bitterness or vulgarity, the outcome is a product that entertains at the same time it stretches sound barriers.
Since many American improvised music fans are familiar with the distinctive music coming form the Netherlands and Italy, a few more should venture a few miles north of the US’s Eastern border and discover the creations of Côté and his colleagues in musique actuelle.
M. Côté has a dedication in this release that is directed to Fabrizio Gilardino, describing it as a “spaghetti western.” Well, upon listening to this movie for the ears, and in between bouts of laughter, I have concluded that it is actually a poutine western. Anybody who doubts that Quebec has a distinct culture had better listen to this CD and come to their senses. This take on American culture could not have come from anywhere else. Côté has assembled a work that staggers between electro-acoustic atmospherics, cowboy songs, jazz moments and old roots/jazz record samples. Songs dissolve like amnesiac drunks drifting into space or the strangest’shroom fuelled channel surfing that you’ve ever done; it definitely has a Tom Waits/Eugene Chadbourne jump cut feel to it, but is totally in its own wacky little world. The only criticism I can muster is that I find it a bit guitar heavy; a wider diversity of instrumentation or a greater use of samples and musique concrete by Côté would have been more to my liking. But hey, this is one inspired movie that I would recommend to all. Maybe poutine instead of popcorn, though.
As a radio man from way back, drummer/composer/alchemist Michel F Côté knows how scraps and fragments of sound-overheard conversations, old blues and country songs-can rattle around inside the brain. Thing is, though, that the memories never come out the same as they originally went in. Flat Fourgonnette gives musical form to this notion, as Côté and his musicians-a potpourri of the folks around the Ambiances Magnétiques tribe-playfully blend bits and pieces of old songs (Hank Williams, Billie Holliday, Mississippi John Hurt) with their own musical ideas and memories into a kind of spaghetti western soundtrack. It’s warm and romantic and a little bit subversive all at once.
Friday, September 2, 2005 / New releases