The intriguingly named Mecha Fixes Clocks is an ongoing project of the Montréal percussionist Michel F Côté. It’s a sort of pseudonym, cleverly sharing initials with the composer, and a bit of an explosion of personality, taking a seemingly very introverted approach to music-making and exploding it onto sometimes as many as a dozen performers. And it is, maybe, a sort of methodology, a working process that has been suggested by the composer as a repair shop with musicians as mechanics working to patch up a century already in disrepair. It’s a big job and, for that matter, a pretty huge clock.
From the challenging and ever-changing groups Bruire and Klaxon Gueule to his own evocative works (see Flat fourgonnette (Mescal Free Style), his fascinating take on American song), Côté has excelled at soundscape-with-subtext, and the Mecha Fixes Clocks records might be his most strangely expressive yet. Teoria dell’elasticità di Girolamo Papariello, the third Mecha disc, was recorded live in studio in 2010 and then mixed and constructed by Côté. Consistent yet irregular rhythms run through the seven tracks and backing drones that seem electronic but may be provided by the small string section adhere the improvising instruments, which are allowed to play free jazz at times but never to dominate. At other moments, the strings rise into a proper quartet against the softly banging buzzing of an upright bass. Of course any of those could also be the turntables of Martin Tétrault, so deftly set in the mix as to become a virtual trompe l’oreille.
Côté also has a knack for drawing from different areas of Montréal’s music scene, and this 11-piece assembly of Mecha Fixes Clocks includes Lori Freedman and Philippe Lauzier on bass clarinets, Elwood Epps on trumpet, Josh Zubot and Jean René on strings, Alexandre St-Onge on contrabass and Bernard Falaise on electric guitar. It’s a deep and woody band, never quite fired up, certainly never uptempo, and yet always moving forward, like a clock, perhaps, viewed under a microscope.