Unstable Friends

Bob / Éric Bernier, Michel F Côté, Guy Trifiro

The sonics are fascinating, the songs dark interwining works with odd electronics and insertions. The Squid’s Ear, USA

Very strange, but in a comfortable way. Hour, Québec

Lunatic songs, taxidermal music.

A universe of pop, at once hard, alien and poetic, unstable friends was built on the successive contributions of each member of the trio. An exquisite corpse in the open air, the music of bob is built from digital songs reconciled, like so many laboratory monsters. Dark beasts that Mary Shelley would not have despised.

CD (ET 00)

  • Label: &records
  • ET 00
  • 2003
  • Total duration: 45:45
  • 130 mm × 130 mm × 3 mm
  • 30 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press


Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy, no. 52, November 1, 2006

Bereits der Auftakt lässt aufmerken — unstable friends (&00, 2003) von Bob ist an sich ein Songprojekt, getragen von der melancholisch verhängten Stimme Éric Berniers. Aber die Musik basiert auf Computer — & Maschinensounds, erzeugt von Bernier selbst, Michel F Côté & Guy Trifiro. Wobei die düstere Downbeat-Melange noch zusätzliche Akzente bekommt durch Falaise & St-Onge, Woodwinds von Jean Derome und Normand Guilbeault am Kontrabass. Die Noir-Stimmung und das meist verschleppte Tempo haben den bittersüssen Beigeschmack von TripHop, beim Auftakt mit Portishead-Touch. Aber Berniers weiches, androgynes Timbre, halb verträumt, halb schon resigniert, voller Gedanken, die in wenig hoffnungsvolle Beziehungsmalaisen verstrickt sind und dadurch auf misanthrope und dystopische Bahnen gelenkt werden, lässt auch an Little Aida denken oder an den Ted Milton von Sublime. Als empfindsamer Wave-Dandy lässt er sich durch die Buffer Zone und eine Landscape Of Panic treiben, ätherisch raunend, eingeschlagen in schwarzen Samt, und endet etwas überraschend, weil uptempo, bei Bacharachs Don’t Make Me Over.


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 539, August 16, 2006

Of course you often use the ‘&’ sign, but it’s less known that it means ‘Et’ from Mediaeval times, and means of course ‘and’. &Records is a label from Montréal, and in all five of the current releases you can find musicians from Montréal, and the broadest description would be to say that they all play improvised music, each in their own specific way. Not that every release is fresh, and let us once again state: Vital Weekly doesn’t like reviewing three years old releases, and good idiots as we are, we still do that. There is/will be a time, when we will ignore them.

The release by Bob is the oldest, from 2003. Bob is Éric Bernier (voice, computer, machines), Michel F Côté (computer, machines, rare back vocals), Guy Trifiro (computer, machines) who are helped by Jean Derome (baritone saxophone, bass flute, piccolo), Bernard Falaise (electric guitar), Normand Guilbeault (contrabass) and Alexandre St-Onge (electronics). Like we will see on some of the other releases, the voice plays an important role for Bob, but inside Bob it is the most clear example of voices that originally come from popmusic, or rather postpunk music. Also the music hints in that direction. Very ‘London’ like post punk music, with rhythms, bass, guitar and of course singing by various voices. But then, except the singing, all played on a bunch of modern day machines. It’s quite nice, well produced, certainly sounding outdated, but it’s a great release. Very pop with a great touch of experimentalism.

Martin Tétreault is of course a well-known turntablist, who not just spins records but also the turntable itself. From three solo concerts he made recordings and gave them to one Bernard Falaise, who in turn selected 33 short fragments between 5 and 40 seconds, 11 per concert. These were then used in the eleven, three minute pieces on Des Gestes Défaits. Conceptually alright, but I must say it also works out musically quite well. It’s a highly intelligent composition of turntable sounds, that is rhythmic, at times noisy and at times introspective. A powerful release of cracking analogue sounds colliding in a digital world called the computer.

Although the name Michel F Côté rings a familiar bell somewhere, I am not sure if I heard some of his music before. He is one of the two directors of the &Records label. 63 Apparitions was written for a choreography and Côté plays electronics, computer, percussion, piano and voice and gets help from Diane Labrosse (voice), Christof Migone and Martin Tétreault (both on objects) and uses music from John Cage (his ‘Érik Satie’ piece) and Érik Satie (the ballet Socrate). It’s hard to say what the choreography is about (if I would understand choreography at all, really), but the music is very nice: it sounds like a bunch of clockworks going down, hectic percussive sounds, banging on all sorts of small objects and speed up sounds of mechanical toy music. At times highly vibrant and jumpy, but here to the softer parts are equally nice.

Klaxon Gueule is a trio of Michel F Côté (percussion, electronics, voice), Bernard Falaise (guitars, piano), Alexandre St-Onge (bass, electronica, voice). The voices seem important but they hardly sound like real voices: they are heavily processed or may be the singers are highly possessed and make their own transformations in sound. The music is a combination of improvised music bumping up to the ideas of musique concrete. At times acoustical, at times electrical, and at times a bit boring. Not every second on this CD could interest me, and it stayed too much on the same level, with grabbing the listener very much. Occasionally also a bit too regular in terms of improvisation for me. Having said that, there are also quite captivating moments here, so I’m left with rather mixed feelings.

The latest release is by Foodsoon, a trio of Bernard Falaise (guitar, bass, keyboards), Alexander MacSween (drums, piano, keyboards, vocals) and Fabrizio Gilardino (prepared tapes, electronics, vocals). This is by far the most rocking release of the lot. Foodsoon is a rocking trio that use the method of heavy rock drumming, in combination with a love of improvising sounds on their guitars and keyboards. It makes Foodsoon standing in a long tradition, from anywhere from The Beatles to Sonic Youth to any current day post rock band, but they do a nice job, and one that is not entirely on the well-went paths of other groups. It seems that sometimes the sense of experiment prevails, but then it might as easily burst out into another furious banged rhythm. Perhaps at those times it’s a bit too rock for me, but throughout I thought this is most enjoyable disc.


Phil Zampino, The Squid’s Ear, June 1, 2004

The first release on Montréal’s & Records, managed by Fabrizio Gilardino and Michel F Côté, presents the rhythmic song works of Éric Bernier, assisted by Côté himself and Guy Trifiro, with additional musicians from the well known Ambiances Magnétiques collaborators Jean Derome, Bernard Falaise, Normand Guilbeault and Alexandre St-Onge. The songs stay in a easy groove, reminding in many ways of the early works of Holger Hiller. The sonics are fascinating, the songs dark interwining works with odd electronics and insertions. Most pieces are by Bernier, with a Burt Bacharach cover to end the CD (Don’t Make Me Over).

The sonics are fascinating, the songs dark interwining works with odd electronics and insertions.


Mike Chamberlain, Hour, February 19, 2004

Bob is the trio of Éric Bernier, Michel F Côté and Guy Trifiro, who utilize computers and machines (what types of machines are not specified in the liner notes) to create a symphony of memory dust balls. You know what I’m talking about. Memory dust balls are those half (or less) remembered events of childhood, snatches of songs, fragments of old conversations that we all have floating around upstairs. Listening to the 11 pieces on this album is like delving into a vat of those memories, played on an old tube radio and set to a rocking beat. Very strange, but in a comfortable way.

Very strange, but in a comfortable way.


Alfredo Rastelli, Sands Zine, January 3, 2004

Parte con un blues oscuro e stravolto questo disco d’esordio dei BOB, trio formato dal percussionista dei fantastici Klaxon Gueule, Michel F. Coté, insieme a Eric Bernier e Guy Trifiro. Sono canadesi e questa dovrebbe essere la prima uscita dell’etichetta &Records. La musica che c’è dentro Unstable Friends è un cantautorato allucinato che ricorda per mood le ultime uscite di Gira o Steve Von Till. La differenza è che il gruppo esplora a fondo la forma e la tipologia della canzone, la intinge di ‘soul” deviato, e soprattutto utilizza dosi abbondanti di suoni elettronici generati da computer e macchine, facendo della musica quasi la messa in scena di un possibile futuro prossimo venturo. Non abbiate fretta di giungere a conclusioni errate, però, perché non è un disco elettronico in senso stretto. Bisogna infatti fare i conti con gli interventi più propriamente ‘musicali’ effettuati degli ospiti di questo disco. Li voglio citare tutti perché il loro contributo mi sembra non di quelli da poco per la riuscita del disco: Jean Derome ai fiati, Normand Guilbeault al contrabbasso, il grande Alexandre St-Onge agli electronics e Bernard Falaise alla chitarra elettrica, questi ultimi due già compagni di Coté nell’esperienza dei Klaxon Gueule. Ciò che ne esce fuori è dunque un riuscito districarsi con classe ed equilibrio invidiabile tra l’analogico e il digitale, tra l’elettro e l’acustico, un chiaroscuro di suoni e atmosfere, colonna sonora ideale per i film di David Lynch (ogni volta che sento il nome Bob mi torna sempre alla mente Twin Peaks; ormai sono segnato a vita) o i libri di Philip K Dick. Non solo blues ritroviamo in queste undici tracce ma anche molto pop. Nelle strutture scheletriche dei pezzi si inseriscono deviati arrangiamenti calibrati alla perfezione. Se l’inizio, come abbiamo accennato, è alquanto cupo, oltre alla traccia d’apertura Love Is… menzione d’obbligo per il sound da Birthday Party del futuro di Be Aware, le cose si fanno più distese nel pop di Bank of Life e Landscape of Panic o in Puffy Face, un vero e proprio pezzo di trip-hop intimista. The Scratch ci riporta in ambientazioni metropolitane post-industriali, quasi la riattualizzazione di certa new wave (come dei Mark Stewart & Mafia più malleabili). Il canto, tesissimo, di Eric Bernier, tra il poetico e il teatrale, è funzionale ai suoni, rimane sempre sospeso e carica maggiormente di tensione una musica che già da sola non scherza affatto, e quando ti aspetti un’accelerazione o un’impennata vocale, vieni ricambiato con un’inquietante e poco rassicurante confidenzialità. Bravissimi.


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.