The New & Avant-garde Music Store

Whither Canada? Part 1

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, August 19, 2016

Mikrokosmos: Quartetski Does Bartók (AM 224 CD) is a much more successful instance of the cross-fertilisation and bridge-building which I assume Nicolas Caloia is aiming at. This Montréal five-piece (confounding expectations raised by their name that they might be a four-piece) strive to reinterpret classical music in a contemporary setting, and on the evidence of this release they do it very well, producing a listenable and entertaining experience. Pierre Yves-Martel (bass, synth) and Philippe Lauzier (woodwinds) are present, along with the electric guitarist Bernard Falaise, the violinist Joshua Zubot, and the drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli. Images of their stage set make Quartetski look like a cross between a chamber ensemble and a rock group, and their music delivers precisely that — original melodies and arrangements reshuffled into accessible modernistic arrangements, with a jazzy swing feeling, dissonant noises and scrapes from the violin, loud rockist segments from the guitarist, and even free improv elements from the woodwind section. A lot of stop-starts, quick changes, and poised dynamics allowing each musician to shine; the brevity of these pieces, and the slight air of genial clunkiness in the playing, also made me think of Maher Shalal Hash Baz. I’m not at all familiar with the works of Bartók, and a purist classical buff might give a more cautious reception to this album (or even retreat from it in horror), but ignorance is bliss and I’m finding this a pleasant spin today. When Michal Libera does cultural mashups for his Bolt Label, he’s trying to get the audience to ask deep and searching questions about the meaning of things we previously took for granted; Quartetski are simpler, and they just want us to enjoy good music in a new setting, with fresh ears. If you want more of this, they “did” a Prokofiev album in 2007 for Ambiences Magnétiques. Fine work.

I’m finding this a pleasant spin today

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