Water Dragons

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, July 5, 2012

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.

Succumb freely to these splendid close-knit wafers of electro-acoustic intensity, that’s my advice.