Since 1997 Michel F Côté, Bernard Falaise and Alexandre St-Onge have been releasing music under the moniker Klaxon Gueule. These albums take bits from noise, experimentalism, avant-garde, free improvisation, and jazz to create something forward-thinking. The group have now released their eighth album, Entièrement unanimes, loosely translated to Fully Unanimous. Using the blueprints of the previous 24-years to create their strongest release to date. Which is no easy feat!
From the opening salvo, there is something wonderfully wonky about Entièrement unanimes. Its charm comes from the giddy glee that seeps out of every pore. It reminds me of those early electronic albums where it was more about experimentation, and fun than what was actually created. That isn’t to say that Klaxon Gueule hasn’t crafted some wonderful music. Non-lieu d’adieu is a fantastic piece of music that lurches around over ad-hoc percussion, whimsical synths, and delightful bleeps.
Toute la glu is built around a fidgeting bassline which allows lyrical guitars and obtuse synths to create something that is both transfixing and repulsive. You are drawn to it and cannot look away, but there is something at its core that makes you want to flee. This juxtaposition is something that has been missing on their previous releases, but here is used to make our stay and lives up to its title of All the Glue. Entièrement unanimes culminates on Deux ouverts directement devant. Here everything is pushed to it (ill) logical conclusion. From the psychedelic intro, gossamer guitars and xxx we are shown another side to the band. The previous 11 tracks have been atonal twitching things, but here Klaxon Gueule shows us they are capable of creating something beautiful and, dare I say, almost conventional. There are actual melodies and rhythms to latch on to, rather than writhing layers of server instrumentation. It is a fitting end for such a delightfully deviant album.
At its core, Entièrement unanimes is an incredibly fun album. There is a conviction to the album that is inspiring. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the playing is done with absolute seriousness. There is no messing about here. But this is part of the album’s charm. After a quarter to a century performing and recording Côté, Falaise and St-Onge know each other well. They can predict what they others will do and counterpoint it perfectly. After listening to Entièrement unanimes for longer than I should, I am unanimous in my decision that it is one of the finest albums of the past few years. This should be shouted from the rooftops. Entièrement unanimes should be on everyone’s end of the year list and if it isn’t then you need to take a hard look at yourself in a mirror.
There is something primordial about Les lucioles by Chorale Joker. It’s a feeling you get deep down after listening to the album. The voices writhe, wail, and thrash about in an animalistic way. At times is it terrifying, but there is an order to the terror. But what did we expect? Joane Hétu, Jean Derome and Danielle Palardy Roger are leading the choir, which features 17 members of the Chorale Joker.
Portions of the album opener Premières lucioles; Haïku — errance feel like an alternative score to the primitive man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. As with that sequence, which ended in violence and destruction, Haïku — errance feels no different. Sucking, and squelching sounds are made around a banshee-like din. Is this a sacrifice after a meal, with the Gods approving or the other members of the tribe showing both respect and impatience, for their time to eat? Either way, it is a visceral way to start an album.
Chaleur des lucioles; Chant des lucioles.1 is probably the most captivating track on the album. It opens with a piece of piercing electronics. Under this breathy wind instruments are played. These are perforated by grunts and gasps. As Chaleur des lucioles; Chant des lucioles.1 progresses the vocalisations become more and more pronounced. Some of the full-on guttural shouts. Others are almost inaudible warbles. Around halfway, the voices come together and start to sound like a conventional choir. It’s striking and really helps hammer everything home. The song is loosely translated to Heat of the Fireflies; Song of the Fireflies.1. The voices sound like fireflies hovering in the night. They drift one way, then another before landing and remaining still and serene.
What Les lucioles really does is allow the listener to drift away from the shackles of conventional music, melodic hooks, chorus, rhythm, etc, etc and allow you to hear something that is pure ID. It is filled with drifting motifs and abstract instrumentation. The real key to the album is the interplay between those glorious voices in the choir. This is where all the dynamic fun happens. As they pull together and apart, we are invited to experience how these small insects interact with each other and their environment. It’s through this understanding that we get a better grasp of how and why we act as we do.
Given Derome’s legacy and standing in the field on the Canadian creative music scene Souffles feels like a culmination of a lifetime crafting forward-thinking music and, at the same time, a misfire. At times music can be dynamic. Its motifs and refrains show a style of playing that has seen Derome receive plaudits from critics, his peers and live audiences alike. Yet, there are portions of the album when it doesn’t really work. Cloudy sees Derome playing a wind instrument. Is it a penny whistle? A Piccolo? A child’s recorder? Ultimately it doesn’t matter. Its sound is in the middle of a Venn diagram featuring virtuoso reedist playing an unfamiliar instrument, toddler music group, nails down a blackboard and asthma attack. The phrases are played almost ad nauseum for its nearly five-minute duration. With each one, the tension gets more and more unbearable. When Cloudy does end you let out a pleasing sigh of relief. Which is a shame when compared to Eskers-Zoo. Here Derome delivers riff after glorious riff. The music soars. It dances all around you. It makes you feel alive and excited for the next barrage. He attacks his instrument. Playing it for all its worth, then gently caresses it and plays tenderly. It’s nothing short of wonderful. And makes the tracks like Cloudy even more infuriating. Derome is clearly a gifted player. He has an exceptional ear for melody and contrasting tones, which makes the damp squib of Cloudy, Castelet and Cantus Firmus so dejecting.
If you are an existing fan of Derome’s work give his a-go, as you might find something I didn’t. If you don’t know Derome’s work, maybe try something else as this might be too overpowering on a first try. What is clear is that after all these years Derome isn’t running out of ideas, but much like the edible namesakes the album is named after, they need to cook to perfection. Many some of these tracks needed to come out of the cover a little soon and others needed a little more time before they were ready for public consumption.
Montréal-based string quartet Quatuor Bozzini have been a mainstay in the Canadian classical music scene for over two decades. Favouring the avant-garde end of the musical spectrum, the quartet has been unafraid of suffusing playful and inventive interpretations throughout a repertoire dedicated to experimentation. Off the heels of 2020’s buoyant Ana Sokolović: Short Stories, Quatuor Bozzini pare things down with Alvin Lucier: Navigations, an ode to the quartet’s relationship with the titular American composer and his material.
This collection of five tracks recorded in concert is timely, as Alvin Lucier’s reputation has been crystallizing as of late. A contemporary of minimalist pioneers and a towering figure of experimental and contemporary classical music in his own right, Lucier and his recent work have been celebrated anew by labels like Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle Records.
Quatuor Bozzini’s collection is a welcome addition to the attention on Lucier, especially given this release’s focus on some of the composer’s lesser-known works for string quartet. While Lucier’s most applauded pieces tend towards less conventional instruments, the quartet succeed in conveying his interest in relationships between the acoustic phenomena of a place and the instruments and amplification systems around. Disappearances announces what we should expect from Lucier when composing for strings; a deep respect for the power of a sustained string. The piece utilizes unison violin and cello tones to gradually bring out the characteristics of the room. Two versions of Group Tapper are highlights, as they display the sonic variety that can be had when all four players are tapping the bodies of their respective instruments in a different place and at different tempos.
Listeners with only a passing familiarity with Lucier’s work might detect layers of conceptual baggage in the quartet’s performance, but it is important to note that the best results are achieved if one assumes that Lucier is trying to lay as bare as possible the sonic characteristics of the materials that performers have at their disposal. Whether a recording was made in the composer’s bedroom or in a concert hall, featuring the bowing of a violin or a brain’s alpha waves rendered audible, the substance of Lucier’s work often is in the particulars of an interaction. Quatuor Bozzini’s release is an occasion to celebrate what is ultimately the fearless act of letting the sounds of one’s world ring naked for others to hear.
We have added 4 items to our shop today:
- Alvin Lucier: Navigations by Bozzini Quartet
- Entièrement unanimes by Klaxon Gueule
- Souffles by Jean Derome
- Les lucioles by Chorale Joker
Find out more about them today!