Robert Iannapollo, Cadence, no. 24:6, June 1, 1998

This one’s a surprise. Montréal-based label Ambiances Magnétiques is best-known for recordings like Jean Derome’s and René Lussier’s bizarre series of duets, Conventuum’s art-rock recordings or Lussier’s brilliant and contentious celebration of the French language Le Trésor de la langue. Pierre Cartier’s Les fleurs du tapis is unusual because it’s about as close to Jazz as these musicians get.

Things start out a little tentatively. Tautologie finds Derome and Levasseur spinning out the theme over a medium tempo and walking bass line. The problem is everything sounds a bit stiff. One of the problems is Cartier’s electric bass which is too bottom heavy, a situation only amplified by recordinq in a church. A good walking bass line needs to be supple and flexible and this one tends to just plod along. Levasseur and Derome’s sobs are tentative and the phrasing is a bit awkward. The situation isn’t helped by a head with an unusual asymmetrical theme. Not a good way to start.

However, by track three, things slip into gear. Signaux de fumée is a great scalar-based theme that kicks along on an African Highlife groove and it flows smoothly. Elisabeth is a lovely abstracted waltz with a theme that is based around wide intervals. Vendredi 10 closes things out on a high note in a freeboppish mode with an especially incendiary solo by Derome.

I suspect this disc may have been programmed in order of performance. As it proceeds things seem to loosen up considerably. The decision to record this in a church gives a a hollow, booming “live” sound. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps the lengthy decay time of the hall tripped up the players initially. The sound works best on the ballads (especially EIisabeth and Tortue marine) where the notes seem to hang in the air. Despite initial reservations, Les fleurs du tapis is quite good and I find I’ve been listening to it a lot.