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Review

Nick Roseblade, Vital, no. 1277, March 22, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021 Press

Despite the way it’s being dressed up Commutation is a cover, or reinterpretations, album. Each of the eight tracks is a graphic score written by different composers. This means that the composer used visual symbols to create the notation, rather than traditional musical notation. The five composers, Luigi Russolo, Emilie Girard-Charest, Anestis Logothetis, Fred Frith, Maxime Daigneault, span 100 years of music and culture. What is remarkable that Ensemble SuperMusique plays them in a way that you can’t really tell what era they are from. This is down to the ensemble using a collection of winds, electronics, and percussion to make them sounds contemporary. A prime example is Pour l’heure, one of the standout moments. Instead of using strings, Ensemble SuperMusique re-score it is using electronics, as well as organic sounds. The playing is sparse but forthright. The horns give Pour l’heure a sinister vibe that might have been missing on the original score. The final third, with its bellowing horns and scratchy field recordings, really define the mood of the piece and act as a bookend to how it starts.

In the middle of the album is a suite of Fred Frith’s four Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire compositions. This is the most important section on the album. On this the album hangs. Original a live double album by Frith these performances take his ideas and run with them. Ensemble SuperMusique’s versions have the same vibe, slightly wonky and eerie, but they ramp up the tension in the way that Frith’s versions don’t. Underpinning all the songs is this junk table aesthetic. Throughout assorted things are being rattled, shook, and jingled. The effect is unsettling, but you can’t look away. Just like in a horror film you have to watch the gruesome imagery; despite being warned by the music. The same is true here.

The albums downside is that it is all a bit oppressive. There is no space between the notes being played. Now, I can’t work out if this is down to the way Ensemble SuperMusique has decided to play the pieces of music or if they purposely picked music that would give them the ability to reinterpret the music this way. Given that these are graphic scores it’s hard to know. The only downside to this is that these versions might lose some fluidity to what the originals had. Saying that Commutation is a glorious piece of music that makes us think about how technology is used and what happens with the data after our task has been completed.

… a glorious piece of music…

Critique

Claude Colpaert, Revue & Corrigée, no. 127, March 1, 2021
Thursday, March 25, 2021 Press

… the two pieces gathered here play with the space and the acoustics of the venue…

Review

Phil Zampino, The Squid’s Ear, March 12, 2021
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 Press

The Klaxon Gueule trio of Michel F Côté, Bernard Falaise and Alexandre St-Onge most recently released a 3-CD box set in 2018, and had been quiet up until this new release, the title of which loosely translates to Fully Unanimous. Unique in their catalog and potentially their quirkiest, this album finds all three on their usual instrumentation of drum, guitar and bass, but also on synthesizer and computers bringing a stronger electronic/synthetic element to their music. Abstract and with an often rubbery feel, the music strays into diverse territory, absorbing and releasing the listener. I’m sure few will agree with my analogy, but to my ears it feels like Kraftwerk merging with Biota’s earliest albums. By which I mean, I’m perplexed, which is exactly how I want to feel when I listen to a Klaxon Gueule album.

Perhaps one of the quirkiest releases from the Klaxon Gueule trio of Michel F Côté, Bernard Falaise and Alexandre St-Onge, performing respectively on drums, guitar and bass, and all on synthesizers and computer, recalling early electronic albums while adding a whimsical and alluring edge to their often darker and more experimental prior releases.

[…] recalling early electronic albums while adding a whimsical and alluring edge to their often darker and more experimental prior releases.

Review

Phil Zampino, The Squid’s Ear, March 12, 2021
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 Press

For those interested in vocal improvisation, the latest Chorale Joker under Joane Hétu’s direction is an achievement in large scale vocal ensemble work. Like Maggie Nicol’s The Gathering, Hétu has assembled a large colection of 20 improvisers to perform her compositions, as well as works from Jean Derome and Danielle Palardy Roger. The list of performers is impressive, including Derome, Roger, Lori Freedman, François Couture, Diane Labrosse, Alexandre St-Onge, Michel F Côté, Gabriel Dharmoo, etc. The color booklet shows the ensemble, and images from the scores, including gestures used for the conductions. The results are other-worldly, a hybrid of anticipated choral work and something inexplicable. It’s unusual improvised music of the highest order executed by masterful musicians who clearly enjoy the concept, and the concert from which this album is derived.

The Montréal-based Chorale Joker ensemble directed and conducted by Joane Hétu, Danielle Palardy Roger, and Jean Derome, who are also participants, is one of the most unusual and fascinating improvising vocal ensembles active, heard here in a concert coordinated with Productions SuperMusique at Le Vivier, Amphiteatre du Gesu, Montréal in early 2020; indescribably fascinating!

It’s unusual improvised music of the highest order executed by masterful musicians who clearly enjoy the concept, and the concert from which this album is derived.

Review

Michele Palozzo, Esoteros, February 19, 2021
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 Press

At last, in recent years, sound art pioneer Alvin Lucier can enjoy the deserved privilege of being recognized as a cult figure for a new generation of classical and experimental musicians, spontaneously catalyzed by his intuitions as essential as they are meaningful, aimed at deeply listening to a vast and yet unexplored sound phenomenology.

At the same time, after decades of empirical studies on the properties of the most disparate objects and materials, the interest of the American dean for traditional instrumentation has been emerging with increasing clarity: an aspect emphasized in particular by Black Truffle’s valuable editions — from the live anthology Illuminated by the Moon (2018) to the Works for the Ever Present Orchestra (2020) which he himself founded. In this context is inserted the excellent Quatuor Bozzini’s new album, an ideal excursus into Lucier’s microtonal and “concrete” investigations applied to an ensemble of string instruments only.

Active for over twenty years now, already the Canadian line-up has considerably distinguished itself in the repertoire of the New York school (Cage, Tenney) as well as today’s offshoots variously affiliated with it (Jürg Frey, Linda Catlin Smith, Cassandra Miller), plus an interesting dual Norwegian project by Kim Myhr ( pressing clouds passing crowds, 2018) and Ingar Zach ( floating layer cake, 2019). But it is especially in the frequent confrontation with Lucier’s poetics that the adoption of an approach that transcends the mere reading of a score becomes indispensable: over the five stages of Navigations, unusual and heterodox forms of harmony take shape, in direct dialogue with and nourished by spaces, in a radical return to the essence of sound making.

A phlegmatic, imperceptible digressive motion unfolds in the shifting unison of Disappearances (1994): at first extremely sharp and compact in shaping an apparently flat acoustic surface, with remarkable control the quartet alternately slides through the tiniest intervals of the instruments, producing the illusory beats that occur in the gap between immediately adjacent frequencies; a fleeting sense of void also accompanies the changes in direction of the bows, like subsidences in the fragile weft of a fabric under the effect of a constant tension.

Composed the same year, Unamuno consists of twenty-four reconfigurations of the same four semitones, vocally replicated by their own creators: an element that accentuates the ritualistic, albeit rigorously objectivating character of Lucier’s performative pieces, comparable to the projection of geometric directrices intended to converge and fuse into a lucent synthesis of complementary colors.

The double iteration of Group Tapper (2004) brings us back to the first CD of the recent collection String Noise (2020), occupied by a patient “measurement” of space conducted by following the reverberation of the bow strokes reflected by the bare walls of an art gallery. The interweaving of rhythmic patterns put into action by Bozzini is however much more lively, even nervous, as it exceptionally makes them pass through a sphere of relative naturalistic mimesis: the curved wooden bodies, struck on their every part with the hard ends of the bow handles, cross in fact a range of timbral solutions that seemingly extends from the patter of busy birdies to the ferocious tumult of the (urban) jungle. These are the most markedly theatrical episodes of the program, performed at physical distance while slowly moving, in order to conjugate the sound gestures and the architecture of the concert hall, the fifth “instrument” which, on closer inspection, plays a fundamental role in each phenomenal instance conceived by Lucier.

Lastly comes the title piece Navigations (1991), previously recorded in the studio by the always formidable Arditti Quartet ( Mode, 2003): deliberately played out on the verge of minimum dissonance, the perpetually unstable scenario sustained by the quartet simulates a spiraling descent into the psychoacoustic depths, home to faint hallucinations once again caused by the changes of tempo and microtonal oscillations in constant interrelation. A true paradigm of the quietly sublimating aesthetics of Alvin Lucier, an irreducible master of contemporary experimentation who, thanks to the passion and sensitivity of the Bozzini Quartet, receives here one of the most substantial discographic tributes released in recent times.

A true paradigm of the quietly sublimating aesthetics of Alvin Lucier, an irreducible master of contemporary experimentation who, thanks to the passion and sensitivity of the Bozzini Quartet, receives here one of the most substantial discographic tributes released in recent times.

Squidco Pick

Phil Zampino, The Squid’s Ear, March 12, 2021
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 Press

The first listed below is from one of the label founders, flutist and saxophonist Jean Derome. I first came to his work long before Squidco started, fascinated by his duo records with guitarist René Lussier, which pairing was eventually defined as Les Granules. On the first of their albums that I bought was the 1986 LP Soyez vigilants, restez vivants… Volume 1 (AM 005), where Derome is credited with flutes, saxophones, claviers, percussions, voice and invented instruments. It was the inventiveness with which both played that appealed to me, as unusual elements found their way into their improvisations. Now, 45 years later, Derome focuses exclusively on his percussions, voice and invented instruments in a solo Souffles album that showcases his vast collection of instruments, big and small. A photo in the CD edition shows Derome sitting in front of a table with an arsenal of curious devices, four microphones at the ready, and his flute and sax at his side. For me, this is the essence of the man’s work and his insatiable and mischievous nature.

The remarkably creative flutist & saxophonist Jean Derome often incorporates unusual instruments into his improvisations and compositions, including bird calls, harps, kalimbas, sirens, flower plastic wrappings, bells, … on this album Derome focuses on those unique instruments and noise makers through 23 surprising pieces illustrating his incredible collection.

For me, this is the essence of the man’s work and his insatiable and mischievous nature.