Succumb freely to these splendid close-knit wafers of electro-acoustic intensity, that’s my advice. — The Sound Projector, UK
Far from formulaic, there are composers’ minds at work here, with gratingly engaging foreground phenomena emerging from background drones, concerto style. 8.5/10 — Montreal Mirror, Québec
In this formula the listener assists to complete sound improvisation thanks to noisemaking, post-industrial sound orchestration, electronic and acoustic sources all of which leave far behind any preconceptions of music. Vibrant polyphony, underlying rhythm, and melody are heard, yet in an opaque and experimentation fashion. For their album, XYZ, Sir Martel, Sir Tétreault, and Sir Lauzier, create fertile ground.
- Label: &records
- ET 14 / 2011
- Total duration: 42:35
- 130 mm × 130 mm × 3 mm
- 25 g
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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.
What happens when two classically trained musicians forego their customary instruments and get noisy? Martel’s viola da gamba is exchanged for static of unspecified origins, and Lauzier’s bass clarinet and sax are prepared and amplified to the point of feedback. Similarly, Tetreault forgoes LPs and focuses on the in-bred sound of his turntables’ motors and needle pick-ups. Far from formulaic, there are composers’ minds at work here, with gratingly engaging foreground phenomena emerging from background drones, concerto style. 8.5/10
Ils avaient déjà joué avec Kim Myrh (Disparition de l’usine éphémère), les voici réunis pour mettre au jour une formule éponyme (XYZ). On parle à son sujet de musique post-industrielle, d’improvisation électroacoustique qui partirait dans tous les sens. Et force est de constater qu’il y a de ça chez Pierre-Yves Martel (feedback, static), Martin Tétreault (pick-up, equalizer) et Philippe Lauzier (saxophone soprano, clarinette basse, ampli préparé).
On passe près d’un chantier extraordinaire, des plaques de métal sont travaillées par des appareils trépidants qui s’enrayent. Derrière, il y a ce jardin où nous berce une cascade (le soprano se sert de sa rumeur comme d’un tremplin). On sort alors par une autre porte, et c’est un installation qui nous accueille: des machines à coudre trépignent guidées par le commandement de Lauzier. Cette fin d’alphabet est poétique, au point qu’on se contentera à présent comme le trio d’un alphabet de trois lettres!
At cross-roads. That’s what comes to mind when listening to the trio disc of Pierre Yves Martel, Philippe Lauzier and Martin Tetreault. No instruments are listed on the cover, but let’s assume it’s a turntable and an assorted range of acoustic instruments and electronic sound generators. They are used to play improvised music, and so far nothing new. But the end-result is quite interesting: its as if these three men are attempting at something that is more noise based than is common in these circles. At a cross-road of improvised music and noise. Obviously not a HNW release but in a true experimental fashion a disc of intelligent noise. It seems all recorded straight to tape, with microphones picking up very closely the sounds that are produced, which makes this pretty ‘in y’r face’ release, perhaps with the exception of y = cZ + d, which sounds a bit distant. Things work best when all sound sources are used on an equal level, acoustic and electronic sounds colliding together in an infinite mixture of possibilities. An excellent release of fine noise.
Musicians who let drones do most of the talking for them might learn a thing a two from Martel, Tetrault, and Lauzier. Complex drone washes can be beautiful in themselves, to be sure. But developments in the shape of the sound — the “composition,” for lack of a better term — in drone musics can be glacial at best. The listener can ironically feel almost coerced to enter that hypnotic state that best lends itself to enjoying steady drones.
The pieces on La formule XYZ perhaps highlight a strategic element that may seem missing when you are in the mood for something more engaging: the use of figure/ground contrasts. What do I mean by this? Listen to track one x= (R) z, for example. A sound complex is established at the beginning of the piece and it is held pretty much static throughout, making it function as a drone. At the beginning, this drone is the “figure,” the main voice of the piece. However, as the piece advances, other sound events and sound complexes occur “on top of” this drone. As they happen, they momentarily become figure, and the static elements serve as ground. Later, though, the original drone also returns as figure occasionally, as the other sound events stop or otherwise lose our attention. Through this use of figural interplay, the drones tend to retain their effectiveness and attraction as musical events. Their ability to capture our interest is continually recycled and renewed.
Mind you, this is noisy stuff. Consider the instrumentation: Pierre-Yves Martel: feedback, static; Martin Tetrault: pick-up, equalizer; Philippe Lauzier: soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, prepared amplifier.
This should give readers some indication of the sense of the term “drones” used above. The tones and timbres here can be quite saw-toothed. This is post-industrial music, to be sure. Yet, on the harshness continuum, the aesthetic is much closer to your Nakamuras than your Merzbows.
Aside from this group’s effectiveness as an ensemble, it really should be noted how well they work as an electroacoustic ensemble specifically. Track four (sparing you its Braxtonian title) is a great example. While Lauzier uses a purely acoustic instrument, soprano saxophone, the piece retains the machine-like aesthetic of the more electronically voiced tracks. Part of this is surely due to Lauzier’s playing (and his magnificent amplified bass clarinet on track six is a stand-out aspect of this recording). But it is also testament to the solid studio skills of those involved in making this disk: the balance of the three musicians is perfect throughout. The mix is upfront with minimal processing, providing a level of detail that suits this trio best.
Philippe Lauzier and Pierre-Yves Martel, Montréal’s new free improvisation tag team. They seem to be everywhere these days, and that’s great: they’re excellent. This time, they apply their their approach to electroacoustic improvisation (close-miked sax and feedback for Lauzier; feedback and static for Martel) to the soundworld of turntablist Martin Tétreault. Tracks are in the five-minute range and explore gritty, acidic textures that will delicately gnaw at your eardrums. Lots of invention deployed using minimal means in unorthodox ways. Worth comparing to the Palétuvier project, the Denley/Lauzier/Martel/Myhr/Normand quartet and the splendid Lauzier/Martel duo Sainct Laurens released on &records.