Succumb freely to these splendid close-knit wafers of electro-acoustic intensity, that’s my advice. — The Sound Projector, UK
Driven by trumpeter Ellwood Epps, Pink Saliva is a unique trio. Their first eponymous live studio record offers 12 compositions. That’s it, no esoteric poetry or jubilant incantations. As always, it is best when one is left to make up one’s own mind.
- 1amour, amour, amour (2010), 2:56
- 2eros turannos (2010), 4:00
- 3debout les morts! (2010), 4:27
- 4nautilius pompillius (2010), 3:33
- 5really deadly romantic (2010), 3:24
- 654° de céphalorgie (2010), 1:11
- 7yes, as a look springs to its face (2010), 3:52
- 8water dragon (2010), 3:39
- 9nachtmützen (2010), 2:44
- 10when you’re real gone, boy, sweet boy… (2010), 3:43
- 11unhomely (2010), 4:07
- 12daedalus (2010), 3:34
- Label: &records
- ET 11 / 2010
- Total duration: 39:10
- 30 g
Some recommended items
In the press
We received a bundle of five items from the & Records label of Montréal which arrived here 20 January 2012. They all come in foldout silkscreen covers designed by Fabrizio Gilardino. Here are two of them.
On Pink Saliva (&11), the trio of Pink Saliva perform 12 instrumentals live in the studio using a combination of trumpet, percussion, a bass guitar and a laptop, plus microphones for occasional wailing feedback effects and a lap-steel guitar. I was encouraged by the presence of Alexandre St-Onge on this one, as he made an intriguing “sleepytime” documentary record in 1999 called Une mâchoire et deux trous while wearing his “sound artist” beret. I enjoyed that one, but this record I find less compelling. The performances are mostly a vehicle for Ellwood Epps to play rather pointless raspberry-blowing effects through his trumpet, while the other two musicians provide listless backdrops of chuntery noise. I would welcome a bit more excitement or danger in the playing, but it feels very predictable — in spite of the obvious commitment to free-form playing. Things feel random, but not much fun; there is something self-important and solemn about the overall tone of these fellows which I mistrust.
The record XYZ (&14) fares much better with me, with its stern no-nonsense discipline that at times feels as strong as iron. It was made by the trio of Martin Tétreault, Pierre-Yves Martel and Philippe Lauzier, all Montréal players to a man. I see they played before in 2008 on a CD called Disparition de l’usine éphémère, using not-dissimilar instrumentation but joined by the acoustic guitarist Kim Myhr. What we got here is the winning mixture of Lauzier’s woodwinds (bass clarinet and soprano sax) with live electronics — be it the feedback-static hum of Martel or the more complex set-up of Tétreault, which involves magnetic pickups, a mixing unit of some sort, and something called the Tétronic which is probably a device of his own making. Unlike the above record which hops about as though all the players have pants full of fleas, this disk just sits there and groans out monotonous and unnatural tones like a bad-tempered old turtle who missed his evening meal. No concessions made by the three brooding magicians here to variations in tempo, register, or pitch, and XYZ soon succeeds in wearing down your resistance. Even the very track titles refuse to acknowledge the listener’s humanity, alienating us with their alphabet soup of letters which resemble algebraic formulae. If these balmy summer days lead you to a hankering for some intensive Nakamura-styled feedback laser surgery but you’d also like to back it up a notch in the direction of Anthony Braxton or Jean-Luc Guionnet, then this is your next purchase. Succumb freely to these splendid close-knit wafers of electro-acoustic intensity, that’s my advice.
[…] Someone who took lessons with Bill Dixon and — at least in choice of band name — has inherited the older man’s impudence, is Ellwood Epps, whose Pink Saliva trio (& Records &11), is filled out by Alexandre St-Onge on electric bass and laptop and Michel F Côté on drums, microphones and lap steel guitar. Although Dixon only dabbled in electronics, Epps, a Toronto native, and his Québécois confrères, embrace it wholeheartedly, adding oscillated wave forms and crackling drones to everything they play. Negotiating the line between indie-rock and jazz-improvisation, the CD is studded with irregular ruffs and drags on Côté’s part, rumbles and pops from St-Onge’s string set and dial-twisting buzzes. At points overdubbed, Epps’ trumpet soars over these wiggling sequences, repeatedly shifting from low-pitched inner-horn gurgles to piercing trills, adding additional touches of soaring lyricism.
Dopo aver toccato vertici di impalpabilità formale dettati da orientamenti glitch di non ritorno (e pensiamo alla parabola microwave di Klaxon Gueule) Michel F Côté e compagni si rituffano in ambienti sonori nei quali timbri e gesti tornano all’umano. Luoghi dell’improvvisazione al posto di pura manipolazione, strumenti reali prima ancora che virtuali. In tempi di transgenia musicale è bene premetterlo. E se l’immaginario di Klaxon Gueule, pur nella più remota distanza dell’etichettatura, poteva riportarci a un mondo della canzone rock, quello di Pink Saliva non può non condurci disordinatamente verso il mondo dello standard jazz più apocrifo e meno rispettoso di quelle tante regole auree che hanno soffocato il genere.
Jazz, comunque e nonostante tutto, poiché sembra facile riconoscere all’interno dei diversi segmenti cesellati con cura epigrammatica e grande gusto coloristico quel pattern di facile presa che un tempo era ritmo e armonia, e oggi è pulsazione e rumore. E se qua un beat ossessivo fa la sua comparsa tra le macerie di un rave perduto, là un larsen si mescola ad anticaglie psichedeliche per poi dare spazio ad un’ambient contaminata e contraddetta da meditabonde esplorazioni percussive nelle quali Côté mette (finalmente) in evidenza doti di grande fantasista della batteria. Un altro lavoro da appuntarsi da parte della premiata ditta &.
I’ve had this release by Pink Saliva sitting around since last fall. Every once in a while it rises to the top of the pile, where it inevitably stays for a few days, a most pleasing and ear-tickling set of pieces, electronically and acoustically mysterious and foreboding. With Michel F Côté’s skittering drums, bent and fractured long tones from the trumpet of Ellwood Epps, and trickster bassist Alexandre St-Onge cooking up something underneath on laptop, there’s depth here, darkness, delivered with a wink and a grin. 4/5
Der Trompeter Ellwood Epps (aka Gordon M Allen) und Drummer Michel F Côté setzten gleich noch einmal ihre Nachtmützen auf für Pink Saliva (&11). Zusammen mit Alexandre St-Onge an E-Bass & Laptop stellen sie sich dem Unheimlichen — wenn ich unhomely mal so fehlübersetzen darf. Wie Ror Wolfs Forscher dem Gebiet der dunklen Gefühle und dem vorläufigen Rand der Dinge. Hier sind es — nautilius pompillius und 54° de céphalorgie deuten es an — imaginäre Korallenriffe, bewohnt von imaginären Kopffüßern, den Cephalopoda. Ein Blick auf ein Mitglied der Familie Nautilidae genügt, damit einem die Spucke weg bleibt. Natürlich ist vor solchem Hinter-, besser wohl Untergrund nicht an bloßes Drumsklimbim, Basspuls und Trompetenschall zu denken. Das improvisatorische Spiel ist in Noise gehüllt wie Kopffüßer in ihre Bizarrerie, Femmes fatales in den Eros tyrannos und postmoderne Kunstwerke in die Aura der verlorenen Aura. when you’re real gone, boy, sweet boy… Die Musik ist zugleich manisch, weil Côté mit allen Tentakeln rappelt und klackert, und gewitzt, erfinderisch wie ‘Daedalus’. Was kann ich für die gelehrten roten Heringe im Korallenriff und dass Stücke nachtmützen und eros turannos heißen? Dazu stösst St-Onge noch Elektrowolken, und Côté hackt Lapsteelfetzen. Epps spuckt abgedrehte bizarre Töne wie ein water dragon, geschmurgelte und gespotzte mit noch größerem Gusto als strahlende. Zischende Gitarrenimpulse durchkreuzen zuletzt sein amouröses und irrlichterndes Spiel mit dem molluskenhaft geschmeidigen Bass, der, effektvoll, immer auch etwas mehr ist. Noise ist hier nichts, was von Außen kommt, als Störung. Er ist Ausfluss des Elan vital, der dieser Musik aus allen Poren quillt.
Following John Cage’s views on improvisation, playing “what you know, and what you like, and what you feel” is a deterrent to the act of invention; “I mean doing something beyond the control of the ego… What I would like to find is an improvisation that is not descriptive of the performer, but is descriptive of what happens, and which is characterized by an absence of intention”. On the subject of “Intuitive Music”, Stockhausen concurs: “Musicians must learn to become the opposite of egocentric; otherwise you only play yourself.”
But what if your ego is forged from a lifetime of experience spent making and learning from mistakes / successes? Now combine three such egos into a relationship of earned respect and trust whose story is enthralling the first and hundredth (subtly changed) telling. This is how you could become a peer of Pink Saliva.
This veteran Montréal-based trio of Michel F Côté (drums, microphones, lapsteel), Alexandre St-Onge (electric bass, laptop) and newcomer to the group, trumpeter Ellwood Epps (replacing Gordon Allen), has, individually, established distinguished personalities — all of them generally big, verbose when called for, unique, something you could pick out of a lineup. Together, they form a curious mélange of sacred history lessons and noisy futurism. With the opener, Amour, Amour, Amour, they introduce a pulsing soundscape (the majority of the disc foregoes the usual frenetic stop / start of free jazz in favor of loose grooves — do not read that as “funk”) of tom thumps and a raggedy manipulated shadow of these in the foreground, Ellwood Epps’s extended, somber, dying drones, rolling electric bass that evolves via virtual pedals, and lap steel whose shimmering scream fills the distant horizon. The trio often delves into what sounds as the offspring of Throbbing Gristle and Bitches Brew outtakes, particularly during Debout les morts! when modular squeals and sine waves accompany a symphony of delayed trumpet notes. 54˚ de céphalorgie and Nachtmützen abstain from driving rhythms to let Côté work his trademark juggling flurry of staccato drum rolls, intricate bash-cymbal-grab-cymbal aggression and feedback bursts; but the most noteworthy moments arrive when St-Onge hinges his instrument to synthetic processing (i.e. Yes, as a Look Springs to Its Face) the results being a microtonal cloud hovering somewhere between Indian raga masters and Jaco Pastorius’ grave.
The “self is nothing but a big bag full of stored information”, said Stockhausen as a frowning punctuation to the earlier mentioned statement.* Five albums in, and we’re still thrilled to rifle though the myriad trinkets in Pink Saliva’s duffel.
*I revere Stockhausen and Cage, but I love to see someone escape their checkmate.
Montréal-based trio Pink Saliva produce music that’s at once intensely deep and readily accessible. Accessible because drummer Michel F Côté lays down earthy rhythmic patterns that sound beamed to the planet through a reverb-y, distant mix. Intensely deep because trumpeter Elwood Epps (aka Gordon Allen) puts so much passion and focus into each and every sound, from kissing lip smacks to achingly beautiful single notes, suspended over the insistent thrumming of Alexandre St-Onge on either bass or laptop. All the musicians are technically ultra-adept, but you won’t find displays of ego or pyrotechnic showing-off. Mood and atmosphere are carefully created and sustained with attention to sonic salience. Amour, Amour, Amour begins with a lo-fi, rubbery vamp opening into a vulnerable trumpet cry that just stops dramatically. Eros Turannos features loose lips and cracking Harmon mute split tones and a reaching bass solo over multivalent drum motifs. This is a highly individualistic take on ambient music that’s rewardingly listenable.
Canada’s Et Records are now in full active force: existing since 2003, but only last year they doubled their amount of releases. That’s great, also since they operate on an interesting crossroad of music styles, and these four new releases show that well. The crossroad is where pop music, improvisation, musique concrète and free-jazz meet up. We have to go the website for additional information (which sometimes linked from the Actuelle label — Canada seems well organized in that respect).
Let’s start with the most ‘traditional’ one — or so it sounds like. I have never heard of Alexis O’Hara, who uses a lot of human voice — her own — as well as electronic improvisation and video. She has performed on spoken word festivals all over the world, from “new music symposiums to “women & technology events”, and besides various mini CDRs, Ellipsis is her second full length CD. Now it may sound like that this is all serious sound poetry, but this release is perhaps the most ‘pop’ music based I heard from Et Records. O’Hara samples her voice, adds a bit of electronic backing, rhythm machines, maybe a synth (but then perhaps these are sampled from her own voice, who am I to tell), and she signs a song, not use her voice in some dramatic or abstract poetry-like manner. That adds a distinct pop music like element to her music, along with a cabaret/nightclub like feel in some songs — perhaps due to the fact that she uses besides English also French and Spanish. The CD closes with Twenty-three, which sounds like a pastiche of Twenty Jazz funk Greats and Hot On The Heels from Throbbing Gristle. An excellent release! Very relaxed music, very well made.
From this extreme we bounce to an opposite extreme, the free jazz improvisation of Pink Saliva, a trio from Ellwood Epps (trumpet), Michel F Cote (drums, microphones, lapsteel) and Alexandre St-Onge (electric bass and laptop). A live recording, which is edited down to twelve short ‘songs’ (again?), somewhere between one and four minutes. This music is more traditionally improvised than what I usually like, with a strong sense for jazz. That is not necessarily, of course, a bad thing, but just not so much my cup of tea, although I could envisage myself in a dark cellar smoke filled and pipe in my hand. Perhaps I should say ‘that traditional’, but I have to be careful: maybe this is all done tongue in cheek, but I am not qualified to judge on that.
More improvisation can be found on the trio disc of Diane Labrosse (sampler), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet, saxophones) and Pierre Tanguay (drums). With the addition of the sampler, things become straight away more ‘modern’, ‘abstract’ and perhaps also less strictly defined as something like free-jazz. Throughout these four lengthy pieces there is a great sense of controlled playing here, with some quite intense music. This trio keeps things well under control here, with a lot of rumble beneath the surface. Meaning it can be found more in the low end than in the top end of the music, and that is what delivers a certain, great kind of tension to the music. Maybe one could wonder if four such pieces is a bit too much to be taken in at once, but nevertheless its some wonderful music, not be swallowed at once.
From a more musique concrete perspective we have a CD by one Tiare Kese, who was born in 1948 in Bulgaria, son of a resistance hero and soprano mother, who went in 1965 to Paris to study piano and horn. Later on befriended Karl-Heinz Stockhausen and Guy Debord, left the first, and then started to play music by Cage and Satie. Then he met Michel F Cote and ended up playing music on this CD, for which he plays piano, organ, mellotron, strings, French horn, electronics, samples and voices, plundering works by Satie, Cage, Tétreault, Falaise, Siewert, Brandlmayr, B Günter, Fennesz, Neina and Oval. I have no idea if this is all true, but why spoil a good story by looking up the ‘truth’? The music is good, and that is what counts. If the other three are working towards the crossroad of styles, then its perhaps Kese who is in the middle. Bits of pop/rock tunings are used, mainly when it comes to using distortion, samples of an electro-acoustic nature, treated instruments, and occasionally improvised playing on them, all mingled together into some well crafted soundtrack-like music. A bit of drone here and there, field recordings interwoven, desolate French horn, modern classical glissandi, sparse percussive sounds. Altogether this makes an excellent release. Quite intense, sparse and at times dramatic music. The best out of these four.
Montréal’s Pink Saliva are Ellwood Epps (trumpet), Alexandre St-Onge (bass, laptop) and Michel F Côté (drums), here providing 12 miniatures spanning one to four minutes. Recognizable trumpet-trio textures alternate with ricketier soundscapes, bubbling bass and clattering percussion never far below the surface. Slippery trumpet squeezes out drones over soft-mallet-driven marching beats and rumbling bass on Amour, Amour, Amour as Eros Turannos, Really Deadly Romantic and Debout les Morts hint at dark, enigmatic love.
Pink Saliva won’t ever ask for your ears — they’ll simply begin and demand your full attention, all other matters be damned. Found on upstart Montréal label &records, this Montréal-based trio’s self-titled debut is a series of short and incredibly focused improvisations that calls for repeated listening. Indeed, throughout this — their fourth release — Ellwood Epps (trumpet), Michel F Côté (drums, microphones, lapsteel) and Alexandre St-Onge (electric bass, laptop) thoroughly reward the attentive listener with the latest findings from an ongoing exploration of this group’s seemingly limitless sonic potential.
It is a record consisting largely of improvisations full of ambient drones and feedback from St-Onge’s laptop and Côté’s ingenious use of Pignose-amplified-contact-microphones-turned-drumsticks, which serve as a leaping-off point for Epps’ meditative trumpet playing (Really Deadly Romantic). However in other places, there are improvisations such as Yes, As A Look Springs To Its Face, which, at times, sounds thoughtful to a point where one starts to wonder whether the record contains through-composed works (note: it does not). It is, in a phrase, captivatingly dark and profoundly serious.
However for the dark and serious mood established and maintained by these fine musicians, there is an unmistakable joie de vivre that also permeates the record’s forty-one minutes; one would be hard-pressed to find a statement without intention anywhere on this record — and you know Pink Saliva knows it — which makes for a palpable sense of excitement and confidence. I would like to name a standout track, but that almost seems to miss the record’s point. This is very much an album in the truest sense of the word — with each piece developing, exploring, trashing, and rebuilding ideas that come before and after — simultaneously showing the way forward and destroying the path behind — inviting listeners to make their own way through an exquisite sonic environment.
Toute une attaque, pourtant, la renonce. Les chiens s’amusent, pourtant, la renonce. Au-dessus du balcon pend le lapin, pourtant, la renonce. Et de ce que nous voulons, rien n’en découle. Cette démission n’est point voulue. Sa présence, pourtant, inéluctable. Pink Saliva n’est pas le trio qui nous donnera le premier véritable porte-voix pour le trompettiste Ellwood Epps. L’électronisme des Alexandre St-Onge et Michel F Côté brouille les pistes. Un Klaxon Gueule (version Infininiment) plus sale, plus brusque. Un Mecha Fixes Clocks plus improvisé, moins orchestré. Un Pink Saliva plus authentique. Plus précis que le Hardcore: La Brique (Bug Incision, 2009) plus concis que l’auto-produit de 2008 (ou 2009?). Une première version définitive d’un ensemble aux vastes possibilités. Et de ce constat. Et de cette renonce. Une prime.
I Pink Saliva sono due terzi dei Klaxon Gueule — Michel F Côté (batteria, lapsteel, microfoni) e Alexandre St-Onge (basso e laptop) — con Ellwood Epps (tromba), ma è soprattutto quest’ultimo l’elemento che caratterizza maggiormente il disco coi suoi suoni per lo più allungati e sospesi (Amour amour amour, Debout les morts, Nautilius Pompilius) e solo accidentalmente rifratti e frastagliati (Eros turannos); Côté e St-Onge forniscono un substrato d’improvvisazioni ‘ragionate’, molto calde, notturne, fortemente percussive. Un disco ‘really deadly romantic’, come titola uno dei pezzi migliori, disperatamente romantico, fatto d’impressionismi fisici che rimandano nostalgicamente a certo ‘caloroso cool’ anni ’50 (Yes, As A Look Springs To Its Face, Daedalus), a Chet Baker (Nachtmützen e When You’re Real Gone Boy, Sweet Boy…), di schizzi austeri e rapidi arabeschi, mai sopra le righe, elegantissimo.
A new project spearheaded by percussionist Michel F Côté, an improvisation trio with trumpeter Ellwood Epps and bassist Alexandre St-Onge. You could call it a continuation of (juste) Claudette via Klaxon Gueule — the differences are notable, but the same rebel spirit runs through them all. Not striking on first listen, but I’ll be back for more.