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Review

Nick Roseblade, Vital, no 1277, 22 mars 2021
vendredi 26 mars 2021 Presse

Despite the way it’s being dressed up Commutation is a cover, or reinterpretations, album. Each of the eight tracks is a graphic score written by different composers. This means that the composer used visual symbols to create the notation, rather than traditional musical notation. The five composers, Luigi Russolo, Emilie Girard-Charest, Anestis Logothetis, Fred Frith, Maxime Daigneault, span 100 years of music and culture. What is remarkable that Ensemble SuperMusique plays them in a way that you can’t really tell what era they are from. This is down to the ensemble using a collection of winds, electronics, and percussion to make them sounds contemporary. A prime example is Pour l’heure, one of the standout moments. Instead of using strings, Ensemble SuperMusique re-score it is using electronics, as well as organic sounds. The playing is sparse but forthright. The horns give Pour l’heure a sinister vibe that might have been missing on the original score. The final third, with its bellowing horns and scratchy field recordings, really define the mood of the piece and act as a bookend to how it starts.

In the middle of the album is a suite of Fred Frith’s four Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire compositions. This is the most important section on the album. On this the album hangs. Original a live double album by Frith these performances take his ideas and run with them. Ensemble SuperMusique’s versions have the same vibe, slightly wonky and eerie, but they ramp up the tension in the way that Frith’s versions don’t. Underpinning all the songs is this junk table aesthetic. Throughout assorted things are being rattled, shook, and jingled. The effect is unsettling, but you can’t look away. Just like in a horror film you have to watch the gruesome imagery; despite being warned by the music. The same is true here.

The albums downside is that it is all a bit oppressive. There is no space between the notes being played. Now, I can’t work out if this is down to the way Ensemble SuperMusique has decided to play the pieces of music or if they purposely picked music that would give them the ability to reinterpret the music this way. Given that these are graphic scores it’s hard to know. The only downside to this is that these versions might lose some fluidity to what the originals had. Saying that Commutation is a glorious piece of music that makes us think about how technology is used and what happens with the data after our task has been completed.

… a glorious piece of music…

Review

Nick Roseblade, Vital, no 1277, 22 mars 2021
vendredi 26 mars 2021 Presse

There is something delicate about Marilyn Lerner and Nicole Rampersaud’s playing on Brass Knuckle Sandwich that you miss the first couple of time you play it. At first, it all sounds like broad brushstrokes of sound. That susurration for example. It is all long, shrill, trumpet blasts from Rampersaud and harrowing piano tinkering from Lerner, but after you become a tune to it, you start to realise that there is a fragility to the playing. Lerner isn’t so much filling in the spaces left by Rampersaud, but she is adding patches of light to encounter the raspy blasts. It works fantastically well. We are giving a vibrant performance and an indication of what to expect on the rest of the album.

Evermore is probably the most conventional track. Lerner’s piano is elegant and wouldn’t be out of place being played at a dinner party. The work runs are measured but with a slightly ominous edge. When Rampersaud comes in, around the halfway mark, her playing is more conventional and restrained. It reminds me of the work of Marc Chagall. The paintings are lifelike but there is a level of abstraction to them that takes you by surprise. The same is true here. Lerner is playing some really beautiful motifs. It pulls at the heart, then Rampersaud comes in and, BAM, everything has a slightly off-kilter vibe to it. It’s the strongest track on the album.

At first, I thought that Brass Knuckle Sandwich was an odd title, but after listening to it a few times it makes perfect sense. The knockout punch happened during Rizoo. The final track, Rizoo, is also the one that everything hangs on. The previous six have set out the aims and points for the performances. They have shown Lerner and Rampersaud’s regard, and disregard, for a convention. There have been eloquent melodies and bestially thrashings, but here it all comes together. To being with Lerner is taking the more collected route again. Her controlled work is delightful, with a playfulness that was missing on some of the earlier tracks. As with Evermore it allows you to get comfortable with the piece. Rampersaud is again shrill, then around the halfway mark, the roles switch. Lerner starts to play more abstractly with Rampersaud playing in a more conventional manner. The change happens so slowly you almost miss it until it’s too late. What Rizoo does it break our mindset of the previous six tracks. It changes our perceptions with not only what Lerner and Rampersaud are capable of, but what the album is about.

At its heart, this is an album that likes to play with our ideas of form and composition. It leads us one way then bops us over the head and runs off giggling, like a character in a child’s comic. There is no malice intended, just a thrill of doing it. But what did we expect from two of Canada’s greatest improvisers? This is an album that works as a conversation between gifted, and patient, musicians. They are both taking the time to get their points across, while listening, and considering the others. If only all music was this audacious.

If only all music was this audacious.

Critique

Claude Colpaert, Revue & Corrigée, no 127, 1 mars 2021
jeudi 25 mars 2021 Presse

… les deux pièces regroupées ici jouent de l’espace et de l’acoustique du lieu…

Review

Phil Zampino, The Squid’s Ear, 12 mars 2021
mercredi 17 mars 2021 Presse

For those interested in vocal improvisation, the latest Chorale Joker under Joane Hétu’s direction is an achievement in large scale vocal ensemble work. Like Maggie Nicol’s The Gathering, Hétu has assembled a large colection of 20 improvisers to perform her compositions, as well as works from Jean Derome and Danielle Palardy Roger. The list of performers is impressive, including Derome, Roger, Lori Freedman, François Couture, Diane Labrosse, Alexandre St-Onge, Michel F Côté, Gabriel Dharmoo, etc. The color booklet shows the ensemble, and images from the scores, including gestures used for the conductions. The results are other-worldly, a hybrid of anticipated choral work and something inexplicable. It’s unusual improvised music of the highest order executed by masterful musicians who clearly enjoy the concept, and the concert from which this album is derived.

The Montréal-based Chorale Joker ensemble directed and conducted by Joane Hétu, Danielle Palardy Roger, and Jean Derome, who are also participants, is one of the most unusual and fascinating improvising vocal ensembles active, heard here in a concert coordinated with Productions SuperMusique at Le Vivier, Amphiteatre du Gesu, Montréal in early 2020; indescribably fascinating!

It’s unusual improvised music of the highest order executed by masterful musicians who clearly enjoy the concept, and the concert from which this album is derived.

Squidco Pick

Phil Zampino, The Squid’s Ear, 12 mars 2021
mercredi 17 mars 2021 Presse

The first listed below is from one of the label founders, flutist and saxophonist Jean Derome. I first came to his work long before Squidco started, fascinated by his duo records with guitarist René Lussier, which pairing was eventually defined as Les Granules. On the first of their albums that I bought was the 1986 LP Soyez vigilants, restez vivants… Volume 1 (AM 005), where Derome is credited with flutes, saxophones, claviers, percussions, voice and invented instruments. It was the inventiveness with which both played that appealed to me, as unusual elements found their way into their improvisations. Now, 45 years later, Derome focuses exclusively on his percussions, voice and invented instruments in a solo Souffles album that showcases his vast collection of instruments, big and small. A photo in the CD edition shows Derome sitting in front of a table with an arsenal of curious devices, four microphones at the ready, and his flute and sax at his side. For me, this is the essence of the man’s work and his insatiable and mischievous nature.

The remarkably creative flutist & saxophonist Jean Derome often incorporates unusual instruments into his improvisations and compositions, including bird calls, harps, kalimbas, sirens, flower plastic wrappings, bells, … on this album Derome focuses on those unique instruments and noise makers through 23 surprising pieces illustrating his incredible collection.

For me, this is the essence of the man’s work and his insatiable and mischievous nature.

Review

Phil Zampino, The Squid’s Ear, 12 mars 2021
mercredi 17 mars 2021 Presse

The Klaxon Gueule trio of Michel F Côté, Bernard Falaise and Alexandre St-Onge most recently released a 3-CD box set in 2018, and had been quiet up until this new release, the title of which loosely translates to Fully Unanimous. Unique in their catalog and potentially their quirkiest, this album finds all three on their usual instrumentation of drum, guitar and bass, but also on synthesizer and computers bringing a stronger electronic/synthetic element to their music. Abstract and with an often rubbery feel, the music strays into diverse territory, absorbing and releasing the listener. I’m sure few will agree with my analogy, but to my ears it feels like Kraftwerk merging with Biota’s earliest albums. By which I mean, I’m perplexed, which is exactly how I want to feel when I listen to a Klaxon Gueule album.

Perhaps one of the quirkiest releases from the Klaxon Gueule trio of Michel F Côté, Bernard Falaise and Alexandre St-Onge, performing respectively on drums, guitar and bass, and all on synthesizers and computer, recalling early electronic albums while adding a whimsical and alluring edge to their often darker and more experimental prior releases.

[…] recalling early electronic albums while adding a whimsical and alluring edge to their often darker and more experimental prior releases.