Mike Chamberlain, Musicworks, no. 117, December 1, 2013

These two CDs, recently released on Eric Normand’s Tour de Bras imprint, have in common the trumpet of Elwood Epps and the drums of Michel F Côté, both players dynamic forces on Montréal’s improvised and musique actuelle scenes. Côté’s work, both as a composer and drummer, is always playful—he never saw a groove he didn’t want to mess with. Epps has been ubiquitous on the Montréal scene since arriving from Guelph about six or seven years back, and his playing, emphasizing breath control and dynamic subtleties, becomes stronger all the time.

(…) The current iteration of Mecha Fixes Clocks, one of Côté’s many ongoing projects, consists of Philippe Lauzier (alto sax, bass clarinet), Epps (trumpet), Jean René (alto violin), Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, feedback), Bernard Falaise (guitar), Guillaume Dostaler (piano), and Côté (drums, feedback, and microphones).

Recorded at Côté’s preferred studio, Montréal’s Studio 270, Beau comme un aéroport is a suite of songs, the titles of which allude to air travel (se maintenir en l’air coûte que coûte, turbulence du dimanche, au terme de l’ascension, petite perte d’altitude). We do not normally think of airports as beautiful, however, and the music does not seem strictly programmatic, but one can find musical analogues with air travel if one chooses to do so. The middle section of Turbulence du dimanche, a rather tranquil piece, is dominated by a line of long notes from Epps, and Côté clattering on toms. (Perhaps Sundays are known for having very little turbulence.) Atlas des brumes has an African feel to the beat, bass droning underneath, trumpet line of long, purely played notes, Dostaler vamping sparely. Tour des anges begins with Epps and Dostaler playing solo lines before Côté enters with a splash of cymbal followed by a rising burst of feedback, which, with Dostaler’s offbeat phrasing, creates a sense of impending doom. Egalité de la résistance des ailes has a gamelan-feel built around Martel’s viola da gamba and Lauzier’s alto, a polyrhythmic play. Sur le siège d’a côté 22F has Epps blowing air through his trumpet to simulate snoring. Ostinato aierienne is a gentle, peaceful ending, which one wishes all flights to have.

Côté’s work, both as a composer and drummer, is always playful — he never saw a groove he didn’t want to mess with.