Truly atmospheric! — The Sound Projector, UK
Whether electroacoustic, sample-based, purely improvised, partly composed, experimental sound art, noise or even indie post-rock style, the music makes you feel like you’ve walked into a fantastical treasure trove of sound. Blink once, and it might all be gone. — Paris Transatlantic, France
Rhizophoraceae are a family of tropical trees that grow on aerial prop root that arch above the water level. They thrive along coastlines in brackish water and in swampy salt marshes.
Labrosse, Lauzier and Tanguay have sculpted a most digestible indigenious record. Palétuvier (rouge) is a canoe trip through the heart of a mangrove forest. The acoustic instruments were close-miked, bringing to the fore their initial sounds and obliging the musicians to engage in subtle and minimalist interplay.
CD (ET 13)
- Label: &records
- ET 13
- Total duration: 39:25
- 130 mm × 130 mm × 3 mm
- 25 g
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Here’s the last item from the Canadian bundle sent in January by & Records in Montréal. Compared with others in the batch, Palétuvier (Rouge) (&13) is quite a dark horse, with an opaque and mysterious feel embroiled in its shady rumblings right from the get-go. It’s also one of the more spartan records on the label, created with just one sampler, woodwinds, and percussion, to create skeletal and spine-chilling effects. Minimal clarinet and saxophone tones are underpinned by perfunctory percussive notes, and the electronic component adds a thick pallor of clammy gloom with its seething inhuman fuzz. Like Eloine and Siegel, the trio of Diane Labrosse, Philippe Lauzier and Pierre Tanguay also speak a private language between themselves, but in their case they’re more able to communicate something of their own interior cloudiness to the outside world. The theme of the record refers to a species of tropical tree, apparently characterised by its incredible hardiness and ability to sink its roots deep into the most inhospitable and watery terrain. If you’re inclined to doubt this, then take a gander here. Musically, the trio succeed in conveying a true “Heart Of Darkness” soundscape with their playing, painting a dark green hell where we can feel the moss and fungus dripping down our backs, and Werner Herzog is never more than five feet away in his questing canoe. The music also suggests the grandeur, the solitary and unknowable nature of these grand old men of the forest who probably keep the secrets of the ancients locked up in their thick bark. Truly atmospheric!
&records is not just a record label, it’s also what you could think of as an ongoing conceptual art project, managed by two Montréal based artists: Fabrizio Gilardino and Michel F Côté. Both have been active on the Montréal music scene for many years, both releasing work on the Ambiances Magnétiques label and producing the annual “jazz sur mars” series. &records started in 2003, and has been putting out new albums ever since. 2010 proved to be one of their most prolific years, with over seven releases, spanning everything from solo recordings (Jean René’s Fammi), to noise rock (La Part Maudite), from electroacoustic improvisation (Palétuvier (rouge) ) to lush pop extravaganza (Alexis O’Hara’s Ellipsis).
What’s intriguing about the label is the concept behind it: &records is an imprint with a set end date: when Côté and Gilardino reach a total of 24 releases, the label will close its doors. It’s an interesting idea, and one that differs from the usual means of organization for a label, presenting the listener with the feeling that everything has been carefully considered and curated. The care that goes into the project is evident from the discs themselves, with each album featuring graphics by Gilardino silkscreened onto its cover. Packaging is minimal, with only the bare necessities in terms of descriptive text, but the craft and thought behind the project are obvious.
These three albums are among &records’ most recent releases, and despite their striking musical diversity, covering a gamut of musical approaches and techniques, they share a consistent atmospheric and evanescent quality. Whether electroacoustic, sample-based, purely improvised, partly composed, experimental sound art, noise or even indie post-rock style, the music makes you feel like you’ve walked into a fantastical treasure trove of sound. Blink once, and it might all be gone. Often making use of subtle and quiet electronics, these are intimate moments, further reinforced by the rhetorical understatement that seems to be the preference for all three groups / artists.
In Palétuvier (rouge) , the fourth in the Palétuvier series, Diane Labrosse (sampler), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet and saxophones) and Pierre Tanguay (drums) present a hushed yet focused series of four improvisations constructed almost purely from wisps of sound, and playing as much with silence and space as with sound itself. Even when there’s a sense of consistent momentum, or where the music appears busier, as in the opening track Miso Eratu, there’s still plenty of space left in between its pulses and grains. The beats on Dextrus Fitera feel a bit plodding and heavyhanded, but they nonetheless contribute to the impression of this album being one long composition, as opposed to four pieces related only by propinquity. It’s almost as if the musicians were slowly breaking down the component parts of the first track into shorter, quieter, and smaller elements, until, by the time the final Alvarum Macenza is reached, what remains is barely audible, forcing the listener to strain to hear what is going on. It’s as if the music is progressively slipping away, with Lauzier’s gossamer-thin threads of sound the final echoes of a barely remembered dream.
Alexis O’Hara’s Ellipsis provides a similar aesthetic of understatement, but with a quiet fortitude that imparts a greater sense of grounding and permanence, albeit one that still maintains the fundamentally translucent and soft character of her compositions. For this album, she’s joined by a coterie of Mile End/Montréal musicians, including Sophie Trudeau (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-la-la band), Alexandre St-Onge (Shalabi Effect) and Radwan Moumneh (Jerusalem in My Heart).
The first thing to strike you upon listening to Ellipsis is the seductiveness of O’Hara’s voice, whose close, whispered quality makes it seem like she’s standing right beside you, telling you sly secrets no one else knows. At times it’s overdubbed, at times layered under the instrumental accompaniment, in a process of masking and unmasking that makes listening both hard work and something to relish. It’s compelling and intoxicating, the lyrics (in French, English and Spanish) switching from playful to somber in a heartbeat, all the while retaining their mildly acerbic wit. Even when the songs adopt a marginally disturbed character (Inside Joke (love is), Twenty-Three and Bugs), they remain beguiling and enthralling. Ellipsis is a gorgeously and skillfully rendered set of pieces that calls for listening to over and over again.
If Palétuvier (rouge) and Ellipsis are dreams wearing rose-colored glasses, Ave <w> is their distant cousin in slightly nightmarish Technicolor, sonically denser, with harsher, grittier textures, more strident in character but by no means overwhelming. This is a project by one Tiari Kese, who, according to Côté, is “a world-renowned pianist and French horn player, known for his interpretations of John Cage.” In fact, Kese is actually Côté, who also credits himself on percussion and electronics and joins trumpeter Gordon Allen (a.k.a. Ellwood Epps) in a set of pieces originally commissioned by Sylvain Émard Danse. The music is a mix of live recordings and samples featuring a wide range of influences, including (as Kese names them): Satie & Cage, Tétreault & Falaise, Siewert & Brandlmayr, B Günter, Fennesz, Neina and Oval.
Côté’s fondness for noisy, distorted sheets of sound combined with sweeter harmonies penetrating a morass of grainy distortion is evident throughout, as it is on his recent Mecha Fixes Clocks (À l’inattendu les dieux livrent passage). This proclivity of Côté’s for “musical white noise” is particularly clear on Marge brute du ƒ, where “Kese” performs sharply punctuated chords (courtesy Erik Satie) on the piano, their attacks triggering a patch that distorts and augments their overtone material. This and the opening Unit Vector in Vratsa are probably the most forceful of the pieces on offer here, the rest of which returns to the bittersweet atmosphere common to all three of the albums, well in line with the general aesthetic of this fine label.
I veterani Diane Labrosse (sampler), Philippe Lauzier (clarone e sax) e Pierre Tanguay (batteria) in quattro session “sottili e minimali” di riduzionismo improv. Siamo spesso ai limiti del sussurro, tutto si gioca su evanescenze di suono che vengono quasi evaporate dagli strumenti con un solido esercizio di trattenimento e rilascio (miso eratu), in un mood ora più prossimo all’elettronica radicale delineata negli ultimi vent’anni (dextrus fitera), ora con in testa un’idea di jazz cosmico dalle ancestrali memorie afro (maxias pitucis), ora con un sospiro e un passo da classica contemporanea (alvarum macenza). Nulla di particolarmente inedito ma un’intesa e una capacità percettiva dei musicisti nel collegarsi l’un l’altro, una grazia e una sensibilità che rasentano la perfezione.
Von Palétuvier (rouge) (&13) gibt es noch die Versionen Gris, Noir & Blanc als MP3-Alben. In die Mangrovenwälder entführen Diane Labrosse (Sampler), Philippe Lauzier (Bassklarinette & Saxophone) und Pierre Tanguay (Schlagzeug). Dazu kitzeln sie die Phantasie mit finessenreicher elektroakustischer Improvisation. Durch close miking wird ein geräuschhaftes Ambiente plastisch hingetupft. In ihrer stelzwurzligen und faunischen Intimität ist diese salzige Gezeitenzone menschenfern ganz für sich. Gurrend und grollend, knisternd, wischelnd und schnaubend, hier ein Krabbeln, ein Klacken, Kratzen, Tickeln, da ein Pfeifen oder ein kurzes Quak, die Mangroven erwachen für einen neuen Tag wie jeden Tag (Miso Eratu). Tanguays fragil klickende und gedämpft pochende Perkussion ist die Basis von Allem, Lauzier stößt dazu kurze Impulse, einzelne Tropfen und verhuschte Kürzel, während Labrosse leise heulende Klangfäden spinnt (Dextrus Fitera). Bei Maxias Pitucis spinnt dann das Saxophon Fäden und murmelt und haucht ein Beinahenichts von Melodie, Tanguay vervielfacht sein Getüpfel zu einem Tamtam für einen Krabbentanz, der Sampler emaniert stehende, summende Dröhnwellen, die sich mit Cymbalrauschen und Gonghall vermischen. Für Alvarum Macenza macht Lauzier einen spitzen Flötenmund, Labrosse sirrt und surrt und Tanguay pocht abenddämmrig zum Tagesausklang. Die Nacht senkt sich mit dunklen Drones. Nun, wer Bilder hört, ist selber schuld, aber ikonoklastisch ist diese Stimmungsmalerei auf keinen Fall.
Oh wow! Voici un album complet qui recrée parfaitement l’ambiance qui régnait dans la salle à manger quand j’ai annoncé à mon père que je laissais tomber mes études en droit pour me rediriger en histoire de l’art à l’UQAM.
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.
A quietly intense free improvisation record featuring Labrosse on sampler, Lauzier on bass clarinet and saxes, and Tanguay on percussion — the latter two using close-miking techniques. Four 10-minute tracks with discreet complimentary events and very high-level listening quality. A demanding listen producing convincing results.