In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Martin Tétreault was the quietest member of Ambiances Magnétiques, Montréal’s influential new music collective. He was providing strange turntable collages to the projects of his colleagues and released a couple of mind-boggling solo albums. When minimal techno and experimental electronica hit the museums at the turn of the millennium, he became the label’s biggest international name, multiplying collaborations with the likes of Otomo Yoshihide, Kevin Drumm, Xavier Charles, and Janek Schaefer. This career boom was accompanied by a stylistic shift from vinyl quotation to an approach of the turntable as a “pure” sonic device. In the process, what he lost in sense of humor, he gained in harsh intensity.
Tétreault has a background in fine arts. Much like the Czech radical artist Milan Knizak, he began to work with vinyl because paper led him to a dead-end. In 1984, for the first time he took an LP, cut it in half, flipped one piece over, pasted it back together, and played the result on a turntable. Tétreault continued to experiment at home, developing cutting and skipping techniques and collecting hundreds of cheap records he found at fleamarkets. Three or four years later, his next-door neighbor overheard his shenanigans. It was Ambiances Magnétiques guitarist André Duchesne, who quickly introduced Tétreault to his group of musician friends. Michel F Côté enrolled him in his ensemble Bruire. The turntablist’s first appearance on record can be found on the 1989 LP Le Bbarman a tort de sourire. He remained with the group throughout the 1990s and beyond. He also played with René Lussier, Jean Derome, and Diane Labrosse.
His first large-scale album, Des pas et des mois, came out in 1990. Then, besides the occasional Bruire album, Tétreault kept a rather low profile. Things changed in 1997-1998 when he began to let go of quotation and cut-ups to develop a more textural style that eventually saw him throw away the record to play the turntable itself, sticking the tone-arm in the motor, placing the needle directly on the platter, etc. These new developments were at the heart of his duo with René Lussier, introduced by the highly abstract and noisy Dur noyau dur in 1998. A participation to the Japanese project Four Focuses opened doors; so did a subsequent duo session with Yoshihide (21 Situations, 1999) and a solo CD for the Belgian label Audiophile (La nuit où j’ai dit non, 1998). By then, the turntable had become a trendy instrument of avant-garde expression and Tétreault embarked on a busy touring and recording schedule. In 2002, he curated the “Turntable Hell” tour (in England) financed by the Contemporary Music Network.