DB Boyko, Christine Duncan, Jean Martin

Une expérience des plus vivifiantes Revue & Corrigée, France

This is where the human voice approaches the realm of true punk rock attitude… Exclaim!, Canada

Idiolalla is actually a vocal illness, a made-up language infection. DB Boyko and Christine Duncan are turning gibberish into improvised poetry, while Jean Martin accompanies them by hitting multi-timbered objects. These three virtuosos have delivered a highly colourful album of creative music. Their fanciful dialogues are laced with rhythms and dynamics inspired by folklore, opera and jazz. Together, they create a unique sound that is intense and beautiful, adventuresome and absurd.

CD (AM 147)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 147
  • 2006
  • UCC 771028114726
  • Total duration: 53:27
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 45 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 70, December 1, 2006

Deux vocalistes, femmes, et un batteur, homme. Une pochette illustrée d’un clown. Un concept, “idiolalla”. Terme désignant l’utilisation d’un langage inventé correspondant à une condition psychiatrique (bref, ce n’est pas le kobaïen, encore que Vander apparaît souvent comme un possédé!). Le martèlement, parfois erratique, parfois plus régulier de Jean Martin est propice à toutes les outrances orales, plus proches de la pratique d’un Phil Minton que de Lauren Newton ou de Maggie Nicols, puisque le langage de DB Boyko et de Christine Duncan est fait d’onomatopées, susurrées, éructées, vomies. Mais pas seulement. Cetrains passages se rapprochent des voix diphoniques mongoles, peuvent aussi évoquer certaines pratiques ethiniques collectives - les youyous, par exemple. Christine Duncan travaille régulièrement la voix aux côtés de Jean Martin au sein de Barnyard Drama, basé à Toronto (quatre CDs depuis la fin des années 90) après avoir œuvré dans des formations de gospels. DB Boyko est, comme elle, originaire de Vancouver mais s’est plutôt produite sur la scène contemporaine (acoustique et électroacoustique). Tous les trois ont déjà émargé sur le label québécois dans le récent oratorio de Danielle Palardy Roger Bruiducœur, prières des infidèles. Ecoutez Idiolalla. Une expérience des plus vivifiantes, à défaut d’être totalement inédite.

Une expérience des plus vivifiantes


Andrew Timar, The WholeNote, no. 12:2, October 1, 2006

While I couldn’t find the intriguing sounding title word Idiolalla anywhere, I did however uncover the neologism “idiolalia”, which arose recently from “idio”: personal, distinct, private, peculiar, and “lalia”: speech; therefore “idiolalia”, meaning a private or unique form of speech.

On this CD, the two singers, DB Boyko and Christine Duncan, no strangers to the exploration and extension of vocal limitations, certainly make good use of idiolalia. Jean Martin, the polished jazz percussionist impresses us with his free improv chops and fine musicianship.

On first listening, the sheer range of vocal utterance astonishes, what with lightening quick switching between vocables and effective presentation of many extended vocal techniques. On the other hand, it did take me a while to relax with this mix of Dadaist-inflected aesthetics (which was originally designed to poke fun and agitate) and (much) nonsense language. Except when used in touches of irony, don’t expect to hear belle canto singing here!

There is more to this music than virtuoso exploitation of avant-garde vocalism. The lack of intelligible lyrics (much of the time) doesn’t impede the singers’ ability to sound in turn lyrical, childlike, declamatory, menacingly silly, hysterically scary or amazingly like Inuit throat singers. Just when one imagines they have run the gamut of emotional set-pieces, they pull out a comically operatic bit, including wicked Pagliacci laughter.

Stay with it. This CD rewards repeated listening and reveals initially hidden structural elements and an adventurous and playful soul.


Dionisio Capuano, Blow Up, no. 101, October 1, 2006

Idiolalla è una malattia vocale, un’infezione della lingua inventata. Due vocalists, DB Boyko e Christine Duncan, e un percussionista, Jean Martin, esplorano le possibilità della comunicazione al di là dell’intelleggibilità semantica e quelle del canto, al di là del tradizionale concetto di cantabilità. I sintomi di idiolalla sono contagiosi e piaceranno molto; di sicuro diverranno luogo di divertimento e d’esercizio del bambino che è in noi, ancora non plagiato dai tabù comportamentali borghesi. Gli impasti vocali hanno una precisa caratterizzazione sottolineata dai ritmi. È giungla, circo e songbook surrealista. Il vocalese d’impianto jazz è terreno di divertissement tribali (Catherine et Cathy, Ringdingding) e l’evocazione d’un Africa distorta (Addowah Picapah) o d’un Tibet adulterato (Mine, Me), attesta il livello simbolico di pandemia che regna dell’album. D’altra parte, l’espressività ha propria sintassi e regole rispettate, come pure è percepibile il “senso dialogico” degli intrecci dei gargarismi o delle ecolalie e il ruolo drammatizzante della batteria (Soul Sausages). Lo spettacolo è dunque di grande godibilità. I piccoli vi tradurranno tutto e spiegheranno perché la mia valutazione sintetica è fin troppo prudente. (7/10)


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 537, August 2, 2006

Since a few years the Ambiances Magnétiques invests in new talent. With these both releases we have another proof of this policy in our hands. On both CDs we find a trio at work. With Today is a Special Day the trio with Philippe Lauzier (alto and soprano saxes), Miles Perkin (double bass and voice) and Robbie Kuster (drums and percussion) make their first statement. Lauzier is from Montréal where he studied saxophone and composition. He is active in the fields of jazz and new music. Miles Perkin, is another rising star in the Montréal music scene. The projects he is involved in, are to many to mention. As a composer he leads his own ensemble Common Thread. Also working on many fronts in Montréal is swiss-born Robbie Kuster. As a trio they exist about two years now. Most of the compositions are by Lauzier, some others by Perkin. Also they adapt two compositions by Béla Bartók: Mélodie pentatonique and Bulgarian Rhythm. Their jazz is far from traditionalistic, but also not superbly modern, but somewhere in the middle. With their disciplined and well crafted playing they create an open and dynamic music that is very mature. In all respects a very consistent trio of dedicated players with a clear concept and identity. Couldn’t find a weak spot here.

Totally different is Idiolalla, a collaboration of two female singers, DB Boyko and Christine Duncan, completed by Jean Martin on drums. This trio is specialized in very free form improvisations, with mainly both vocalists on the forefront. From Vancouver comes DB Boyko. She worked with the NOW Orchestra and made impression with her song-cycle Amphibious Tales in the 90’s. Of both Christine Duncan - with a five octave range - is the one who has the most experience. She worked with Kenny Wheeler, Paul Horn, etc. Percussionist Jean Martin worked with David Murray, Lori Freedman, and many others. So speaking of ‘new talents’ should be taken as a very relative notion. By the way, Duncan and Martin also perform as a duo. The non-verbal mouth music of this trio is very dramatic and intense. Drummer Martin plays modest but effective. But when listening repeatedly to this CD, I could not suppress the thought that all becomes a bit more of the same. Which is may be due to the free form character of their improvisations. So how expressive and adventurous the improvisations may be, this does not guarantee a CD that impresses from beginning to the end.


Paul Bijlsma, Phosphor, no. 120, August 1, 2006

The cover of this album by DB Boyko, Christine Duncan and Jean Martin features the face of a clown, reminding of a fair. Both vocalists DB Boyko and Christine Duncan sing in an unusual way, creating and reciting their self-invented language. Jean Martin accompanies them with his multi-coloured percussion. It’s funny, almost childish and certainly very entertaining at the same time. The music ranges from playful vocal art to moments in which Tibetan monks seem to be singing.


Nilan Perera, Exclaim!, August 1, 2006

I was just thinking about the human voice. Mostly everyone has one, uses one and it’s pretty much the basis for eminent music publications. Well kiddies, Idiolalla is two women with voices and one drummer with style. This is where the human voice approaches the realm of true punk rock attitude; not only are they not going to tell you what they’re talking about and leave you to make up your own mind but they’re going to make you laugh, roll your eyes and scare you into the bargain. The departure this CD takes from the avant-art-whatever genre of sound-singing is the inclusion of the awe-inspiring drumming of Jean Martin and Duncan and Boyko tag-teaming everything from basso growling to Japanese pop squeaks to faux light opera and Monty Python shanties. Mad skills and no fear to boot.

This is where the human voice approaches the realm of true punk rock attitude…


François Couture, AllMusic, July 1, 2006

This studio meeting features the husband-and-wife duo Barnyard Drama (which has expanded to a quartet since these August 2004 sessions) and Vancouver experimental vocalist DB Boyko. All three also performed in Danielle Palardy Roger’s oratorio Bruiducœur, prières des infidèles, hence the Ambiances Magnétiques connection. So we have two marvelously crazy female vocalists (Boyko and Christine Duncan) backed by Jean Martin, who sticks solely to acoustic drums — in Barnyard Drama, he also plays turntables and electronics. Boyko and Duncan are highly compatible. Both are fond of onomatopoeias, characterization, and all-out wackiness with a sense of humor. In their own words, Idiolalla is an invented language disease. And you do get the feeling that something is wrong with them, although in this case two wrongs do make a right: the singers feed off each other’s vocal inventions, staging improbable plays in an alien dialect, with Martin punctuating moods and provoking new situations. The trio goes from pseudo-Inuit singing in bap to mock-Italian opera (funala funala coccino), to epic madness in the nine-minute soul sausages, which could almost be heard as a soap opera episode. The nakedness of the project occasionally feels like a constraint, the sound palette of the album remaining rather narrow, but fans of creative singing should definitely investigate. Just get also Barnyard Drama’s I’m a Navvy or Roger’s Bruiducoeur… for a fuller picture of these artists’ work.

… onomatopoeias, characterization, and all-out wackiness with a sense of humor.


François Nadon, Ici Montréal, May 18, 2006

Composé de deux improvisatrices vocales et d’un percussionniste, ce trio nous offre un album plutôt mélodique tout en étant totalement improvisé. On sent qu’Idiolalla est le résultat d’une convergence de trois musiciens et non d’une confrontation; les uns s’insèrent dans le jeux des autres pour aboutir à des impros cohérentes. Dans son jeu, Jean Martin est présent sans pur autant s’imposer avec ses percussions. Il insuffle une dynamique rythmique qui encadre le jeu des deux chanteuses. Un disque recommandé à ceux qui veulent s’initier à de l’improvisation vocale accessible sans pour autant lésiner sur la qualité. Christine Duncan et Jean Martin seront avec leur groupe Barnyard Drama au FIMAV ce soir le 18 mai [2006].

Un disque recommandé à ceux qui veulent s’initier à de l’improvisation vocale accessible sans pour autant lésiner sur la qualité.


Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight, October 28, 2004

According to my research, idiolalla is a psychiatric condition in which those afflicted are compelled to make up their own private language. It’s kind of like a fundamentalist-free version of speaking in tongues, and chances are that if we encountered an idiolallite on the street, we’d scurry away, unnerved by their unfathomable barrage of words. Strange, then, that seeing two idiolalla victims on-stage, backed only by a drummer, should prove so fascinating.

Of course, singers Christine Duncan and DB Boyko don’t really suffer from the syndrome; they’ve just named their new group after it. Idiolalla, in which the two are joined by Duncan’s percussionist partner, Jean Martin, is an exploration of improvisational mouth music, and a chance for three serious musicians to have way too much fun.

That much was obvious from their VOX-festival set’s closing number, which began with Martin laying down an idiot-simple drum beat, like a kindergarten version of rock ‘n’ roll. The two singers then introduced a set of awkward and naive lyrics about rich people and poor people, skinny people and fat people: it was obvious the song was a cover, but of what? At last it dawned on me: this was Philosophy of the World, the title track from what some critics believe is the worst album ever — and thus pure genius in its own special way.

The chorus of “Philosophy…” is simple: “You can never please everybody in this world”. But by ending its debut show with a slice of the Shaggs — no doubt a first for any new-music festival, anywhere in the world — Idiolalla pleased at least as many in the musically literate crowd as it puzzled. In fact, the whole set was a blast.

Duncan and Boyko can sing anything, although the former is known for her jazz and gospel stylings while the latter has trained intensively in Java and Bali. Together, they seem bent on pushing each other ever-further into wordless glossolalia and gibberish, but because their approach is one of complicity rather than confrontation, those out-there warblings smack of effervescent joy. Martin adds colour and punctuation. Although it’s easy for music like this to slip over into self-indulgence, Idiolalla’s performance was too smart, nuanced. These three are on to something, and we wait with interest to see where they go next.

These three are on to something, and we wait with interest to see where they go next.