The care that went into each composition is also apparent in their ordering. — Signal to Noise, USA
Accept and enjoy the razor-like sound of the electric viola. Explore its possibilities, take advantage of its characteristics, stretch them and pervert them; a job well done. Back to my acoustic instrument, bound to only one rule: to surprise and amaze myself, to veer off as soon as I’m on a familiar path. Finding my own voice. straight between composition and improvisation; crafting and fine tuning. Fammi, the first one, she called me and that’s what I called her ("fammi" = "do me"), done à la Michel F.: the naked sound of the viola and the bridge-miked bow. Nancy reminds me of a particularly inspiring loop by Nancy Tobin (Bataille). La triste vie d’une puce: those learned fleas, those too beautiful people, those too well-respected codes of behaviour. Le grand boudin: hyper-sensitive electronic effects with extreme discretion. Morue, from a postcard pinned above my desk proclaiming "In cod we trust" (ed). Prune: "Prugna era il colore del suo sangue". Outardes: an isolated cry that resembles a complaint; and yes, a flock, honking!Juste encore a Cole Porter inspired diversion. And finally, in Consort, an immersion in the spirit of William Byrd’s. (Jean René)
- Label: &records
- ET 08 / 2010
- Total duration: 42:00
- 130 mm × 130 mm × 3 mm
- 30 g
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In the press
A long-standing member of Montréal’s extremely fertile experimental music scene, Jean René has lent his skills to many of his contemporaries. He can be found alongside Michel F Côté in Mecha Fixes Clocks and has augmented Jean Derome’s Dangereux Zhoms core with his viola on the amazing Plates-formes et Traquenards. For his solo debut, René has selected a group of compositions that feature both his work on the viola (electric and acoustic) and his outright intriguing electric guitar work. When playing the viola, René chooses a pure approach to the instrument, relying on a looping pedal fairly sparsely. On the guitar, he manages to evoke downright sinister tones that speak in a nearly industrial language that stands apart from his neo-classical background. From a player of lesser pedigree, this may signal a lack of direction; in René’s skilled hands, Fammi comes across as a daring, idiosyncratic album.
Jean René ist seit Jahren eine fixe Größe in der Ambiances-Magnetiques-Szene, an der Seite von R Lussier, RM Lepage, A Duchesne, P Cartier, mit Mecha Fixes Clocks. Fammi (&08) ist Musik für eine elektrische Viola, und wer mag, kann da an John Cale denken. Was nicht heißt, dass die Bratsche allein erklingt, meist sind ein oder mehrere Doubles mit im Spiel. Die Stücke, zehn an der Zahl, sind mal repetitiv, mal klangbetont mit langen, katzenjämmerlichen Strichen und durchwegs sehr variabel. Nancy stottert und verhallt gedämpft und schleifend wie Loops von Pierre Bastien (tatsächlich kommt die Anregung aber von Nancy Tobin). Verzerrte und nachhallende Sounds reizen die Sinne durch attraktive Dissonanzen. Le grand boudin wischt, knurpst und krabbelt geräuschhaft an Holz und Saiten, als ob es um die Wurst ginge. In Morue spiegeln und zerrspiegeln sich zwei Violas, während Prunes sägend und Tonleiter übend sich auf Michael Nyman einstimmt. Die Anklänge an Alte Musik — René war lange Bratschist im Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal gewesen — verstärken sich vom Klageton von Outardes zum noch traurigeren Consort, in dem der Geist von William Byrd umgeht. Dazwischen ist Juste Encore geschoben mit seiner melancholischen Gitarre und versteckten Anspielung auf Cole Porter. Es ist eben Musique postmoderne.
Canada’s Et Records has been going since 2003, and so far released nine releases. These three are all recent, so their catalogue suddenly expands in a big way. We find this label in the world of improvised music. The first one is by one Jean René, who plays acoustic and electric viola and electric guitar. Unlike many of his peers, René plays his instruments in such a way that we can recognize them. The viola is a viola, the guitar is a guitar. That is, perhaps to some, a traditional approach, and that’s also an approach we find in his music. A piece like Outardes sound almost like baroque music. That is however a rarity. Another rarity is Morue, which is the most onkyo piece around here. In his other pieces he shows a love for minimal music in a classical sense. He uses a bit of delay on some of the pieces, to add that sustaining sound. Sometimes it reminds me of very old Steve Reich or Philip Glass music (Prune could be a small version of Violin Phase), but René keeps his pieces very short (somewhere between two and five minutes) and presents them as small miniatures.
Behind Mecha Fixes Clocks we find Michel F Côté (keyboards, electronics, microphones, drums and percussions), but unlike his other releases, this is not a solo or duo work, but, at least from what I gather, a work he composed and plays on, but with extended group of thirteen players, among them Martin Tétreault, Tom Walsh and Jean René. Instruments listed include trumpet, flutes, guitar, clarinet, french horn, trombone and such like. Nine pieces of some great orchestral music. Moving slowly, like gentle minimal music, which slowly, over the course of these pieces built up. It combines improvisation (although sparsely here), with minimal glissandi and small melodies, which rise up from those gentle waves of heavily and heavenly layered small orchestral sounds. Think Olivia Block, but perhaps with a bit more improvisation in some parts. Great chamber music, relaxed atmosphere, jolly fine music.
La Parte Maudite is a trio of Philippe Battikha (trumpet, pedals), Mivil Deschênes (bass, pedals) and Patrick Dion (drums). This is, at least for me, the release I didn’t like that much. The music is that of a heavy nature. Loud bursts of controlled and probably less controlled musical outbursts. Music that comes from that specific cross road of improvised music, loud rock and free jazz. Loud and blearing. One of the things that made me not like this that much was the use of the trumpet. It seems to be coming, at least for me, too much from the world of jazz. I understand the raw power and energy of this trio, but in the end the result didn’t win me over. I’d rather go back to the previous two releases.
Jean René has a long and illustrious career in avant-garde music behind him. His viola has accompanied near everybody on the Montréal scene. Now, Jean René releases his very first album under his own name, and a solo opus to boot. Well, congratulations. First of all, it was about time! Second of all, it’s an excellent record. Fammi features ten compositions, most of them multitracked, where René plays acoustic and electric viola, plus some electric guitar. The title track is fascinating: its counterpoint brings to mind Bach, while its harmony is resolutely modern. And this record boasts a form of musical humour that once was the trademark of Quebec “musique actuelle” (titles like La triste vie d’une puce and Le grand boudin evoke Les Granules). Yet, mischieviousness is not the key trait of this record — that would be intelligence and complex emotions.