No Type

Mutek 2003 review

Schepper, Grooves, no 11, 1 août 2003

As in previous years, the range of artists and genres represented at Mutek 2003 was considerable. With over 70 artists from around the world appearing, one had the opportunity to see ‘marquee’ acts like Pole, Coil, and Richie Hawtin, as well as uncompromising artists like Pita, Kevin Drumm, and T. Raumschmiere. Unlike past Muteks, DJ sets were almost entirely absent at this year’s festival (although, for the record, past DJ sets had often been used to bridge the gaps between non-DJ performances). And, in comparison to last year’s ambitious potpourri of concerts, panel discussions, films, and design displays, the 2003 incarnation limited itself to concerts and panel discussions, with seven of the latter. In short, this year felt like a satisfying consolidation of past festivals’ strengths instead of grandiose risk-taking.

There were label showcases by Mego, No Type, and Minus/Plus 8, and sets of dubby microhouse from EGG (Julien Roy and Guillaume Coutu-Dumont), smooth minimal techhouse from Robin Judge and Jeff Milligan (aka Algorithm and Revolver label head), hard-hitting minimal techno by Ototo (Dimitri and Filip), Jeremy Caulfield, and Matthew Dear (aka False), the latter’s music evoking classic Chain Reaction stylings in its treble and bass detailing. Drone and ambient musics were presented, the most notable instance being the appearance by Thomas Köner and Asmus Tietchens (performing as Kontakt Der Jünglinge) who sculpted a slowly unfurling glacial soundscape. Other artists in this genre included Gary Joynes (aka Clinker), who built a singular drone-like piece of slowly metamorphosing waves, and [sic] (Jen Morris), who created ghostly dronescapes against a diptych backdrop of enigmatic photographs. Electroacoustic sets were offered by the nuanced Coin Gutter (Graeme Scott and Michael Hendrix) and sampling artist Diane Labrosse and Aimé Dontigny, whose collaboration resulted in a tactile, improvisatory dialogue. Set Fire to Flames’ member Christof Migone generated a 45-minute stream of body-generated scraping and whirring sounds accompanied by a video triptych that showed a gaping mouth at left, what appeared in the middle to be a tomato encased within a block of ice lodged within a salivating mouth, and, at right, the nighttime silhouette of a cityscape and bridge. There were infectious jazz-inflected funkhouse from Cobblestone Jazz and celebratory Latin techhouse by Mambotur. Chicago-based Telefon Tel Aviv (Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper) presented a heavy microdub funk of chiming synths and massive bass drum and snare patterns. But, overall, the most memorable performances were turned in by veterans like Pole, Coil, Richie Hawtin, Monolake, and Señor Coconut.

In a Saturday afternoon performance that paid tribute to turntable pioneer Raymond Gervais, four turntable titans — Philip Jeck, Marina Rosenfeld, Martin Tétreault, and Martin Ng — provided an hypnotic set that included extended group collaboration as well as individual spotlights. Ostensibly, the proceedings were directed by Tétreault but his was certainly a benign dictatorship; if anything, the pieces often evolved with the others responding to Jeck’s looping grounds. They began by constructing a beautifully measured collage of scraping and scratching sounds amidst ghostly strains of melody. Immediately following this auspicious beginning, they created an equally effective second piece of whistling tones and bell-like percussion effects. While the concert predominantly featured the four playing together, there were brief duos, trios, and solos. Naturally, as is to be expected in an improvisatory setting, some tentative moments emerged when it seemed as if each of the four was waiting for someone to take the lead, but these registered as not unwelcome moments of brief stillness. Each took solo turns: Jeck, using two turntables, one for 12 inch lps and the other for 45s, drowned the sitar from Stoked in showers of surface noise; Rosenfeld’s solo offered a turntable adagio of sorts filled with treble glissandoes, looped crackling patterns, and phantom melodies; Tétreault’s initial musical quotation was gradually buried under huge slabs of static and hiss, his turn ending with furious scratching and a physical attack on his lps; finally, Ng’s solo impressed less as an exercise in musicality and more as one of physical athleticism. To close, the four collaborated upon a carefully sculpted elegiac piece. In sum, this session was engrossing and nuanced—a demonstration of sensitive listening and collaboration by its participants.

Electroacoustic sets were offered by the nuanced Coin Gutter and sampling artist Diane Labrosse and Aimé Dontigny, whose collaboration resulted in a tactile, improvisatory dialogue.


Walt Miller, Splendid E-Zine, 8 juillet 2003

No Type is a Canadian label with a name that serves as its mantra. With a roster that ranges from improvisational jazz to noise to austere techno, their signings are not based on a particular sound or genre; the requisite seems to be quality, and it’s an A&R policy I sometimes wish all labels would follow, as financially suicidal as that may be. But No Type doesn’t worry about money, apparently. Formed in 1998, they’ve been giving away their music in strictly MP3 form for the last five years. Only recently have they decided to put their music out in the more traditional forms (CD, vinyl), which they do through a joint venture with

If no one gets paid, how does No Type attract such great artists? Any one of the eleven on this label sampler could — and sometimes does — have a deal on a less obscure label. The choppy hip hop of Headphone Science bridges Autechre and Prefuse 73, a brilliant mash of melodic IDM effusion and urban milieu that would be at home on Chocolate Industries. Both Balai Mécanique and PO, two artists featured in the recent and heralded Montréal Freebox set, turn in chunks of free jazz rhapsody that Thirsty Ear would be advised to get their hands on. Claudia Bonarelli and Tomas Jirku, who have had releases on Mille Plateaux and Force Inc., respectively, are masters of minimal laptop techno, individually infusing gentle glitch into absorbing four-on-the-floor chillout. Vancouver’s Coin Gutter lays down five minutes of ambient penetration on Timewise, its otherworldly isolationism taking sharp swings at the aorta with dark droning turns and eerie female spoken word. And then there is A_dontigny & Diane Labrosse, a collaboration of two sound-sculpture heavyweights. Their track, t.s.f., lifted from their recent one-off Télépathie, is an amorphous treat of liquid sound and musique concrète, with each artist playing off of the other in expert, real time manipulation. And so on.

Judging from the music featured here, the No Type roster is the equivalent of titanium: strong and uncompromising. I’d venture to guess that just about any No Type would be worth your while, but it’s a little too early to etch that in stone. In the meantime, I think I’ll put a little trust in the keen senses of these Canadians and see where it takes me. Feel free to follow.

… the No Type roster is the equivalent of titanium: strong and uncompromising.

Navigating Noise & Nausea

Tobias C van Veen, Dusted Magazine, 1 juin 2003

[…] Speaking of the No Type-ers… After what has been some public critique of Mutek, even on this list, No Type presented a label showcase at the Studio yesterday that enraptured the crowd, sucking them into a vortex of noise and improv electronic performances. […] No Type held attention despite the soundsystem’s relatively quiet range, with Samiland travelling a wealth of minimalist and dub territories, from sparse and deep broken beats to ambience, leading into the madness that was to follow: two sets of collaborative & improvised performances featuring A_Dontigny, first with the precise workings of veteran improvisational artist Diane Labrosse — on what appeared to be a theraemin device, at times; this performance was intricate, yet harsh in its metallic clamouring of sound-events. Then came morceaux_de_machines who, after an enthusiastic shout-out from Aimé, did not disappoint with his collaboration: vitriolic improvised noise from strange devices, high-pitched and jagged waves, from this real beast of a man, getting down and into it — morceaux grabbed the crowd and spun them round degree by degree. To end was Vancouver’s Coin Gutter, the enigmatic duo of Graeme and Emma carving out one of their more delicate and restrained sets, and, although improvised, moving through a taste of their sound, from experimental electroacoustic to noise, field recordings, media samples, and dark soundscapes. […]

No Type presented a label showcase that enraptured the crowd, sucking them into a vortex of noise and improv electronic performances.


Jeremy Keens, Ampersand Etcetera, no 2003_f, 24 mai 2003

A Canadian duo, this is their first label release and contains two demos — the single long track and a second series of short pieces. The packaging (obliquely) and title appear, from their ’manifesto’, to relate to architectural and social dreams for a better world which always fail. ’I am fatigued by dreams of a better world. They are so many, they no longer inspire’. I read that before listening to the music, and was worried by the sense of ennui — and wondered how the sounds would reflect this.

Indulge me while I look at the second half first. There are seven tracks in about 30 minutes, and while they track across three years, they are almost an addendum to the opening track. ’Lullaby’ starts with slow backwards voice and tones and then swaps to a piano, almost straight, and soprano (singing a probably well known aria) that is very subtly and skilfully looped. Big crunchy tones, industrially ambient, with a voice entering later, ending woobly in ’Terminal’ before the brief ’No5’ where more big noises segue into tonal pulses. Something of a trend is emerging with ’Solitaire’ when pulsing industrial ambient with hypno-tape is overtaken by a building buzz, then a tapping over that before the voice loops at the end. The oldest piece on the disk is perhaps the most immediately striking (and makes it onto the sampler). A haunting ambience of scrapes tocs and washes is joined by a disturbed voice saying variants of “he’s gone”. Small breath cuts create percussive effects, then we move to ticking scrapes and heavy thudder as a different voice talks about “she’s crying”. ’Tlia3ml’ travels from a high scraping buzz that drops under soft tones but returns refreshed with some percussive, then another short compilation of rumbles choppedsamples ping and other noises rapidly alternating in ’Scission’. The final track is ’Southern yukon/northern bc (and perhaps parts of alaska)’ a slowly burning combination of soft buzz, crackles and binaural ticks that gains little tonalities, puttering, a deep dronal tone, cycling wash, pinging scratches, pulsing and clicks building to a very active state at 10 minutes, some voice, a brief dip and then a full noise assault for a minute which suddenly ends. Snap.

These tracks demonstrate a fair bit about Coin Gutter — they construct and assemble their pieces, more akin to the electroacoustic style; in that construction they shift the sound of a track quite a distance across its length; they are not averse to either noise or mellifluousness; their sound palette is broad and they focus on the details. As an album in its own right, this collection would not be uninteresting, but the wow-factor on the album comes during the 36 minutes of ’Lift with the knees’.

The first time I played/scanned this album, just to get an idea of it, the track turned me off, and it was only when I went into full listening did I get into it. The opening few minutes is a noise assault as a high buzz becomes white noises which has things in it but is quite in-there. It slips to one channel and gradually fades to a crackle, after which the piece moves into its more enfolding phase. It is a sequences of musical constructions that slide effortless into each other as an interlocking suite. Composed of all manner of sounds — tones, crackles, drips, phone tones, beats, piano, little noises, blurts and more it is varied and yet consistent. Echoes and shimmers, loops and gradual modulations, changes of pace and mood create a series of musical images, pictures at an exhibition that we are walking through, the aura of one touching onto the next and affecting our view as we bring it into focus. Some are small pictures while others are larger or more intricate. It would be difficult to try and describe each, some reflect the activity in the shorter pieces, though there is less voice in there. The whole coheres and the parts are impressive.

Either half of this release would be worth hearing and having, together they make a great impression. But definitely one where you need to listen to more than the opening 30 seconds.

The disk is part of an ’abstract’ (less dependent on beat?) series — Magali Babin was the first and another is slated for later in the year.

I was lucky enough to get a promo-sampler, and the material on that from the forthcoming albums suggests the next lot (Books On Tape and Bonarelli with 10” vinyl and a Headphone Science album) derive from the third arm (aside from improv) of intelligent and exciting ’techno’.

The whole coheres and the parts are impressive.


Jeremy Keens, Ampersand Etcetera, no 2003_f, 24 mai 2003

For once I have split the label reviews — there are two other No Types in here — because of the variety. Recap the story — web label (with host of wonderful free music) mentioned often times in &etc went ’real’ last year in conjunction with DIFFUSION i MéDIA (purveyors of the empreintes DIGITALes electroacoustic label, also seen across the issues, most recently the last). The first batch of releases were reviewed here (2002_3, 7 and 8), and now we see the next fruits.

The first release (number 1&2) was the double compilation ’Freest of Radicals’ that introduced us to some of the people featured on the ’web — but with new tracks. In an even more extensive production, here we are presented with four studio albums from improv groups representative of the new sound of Montréal, particularly centring on the Casa del Popolo, featuring a slightly overlapping membership. So into it.

First, this is improvised free jazz — furious, complex, intricate, dense and frenzied. To buy it you would have to be interested in the music — 220 minutes is not for the faint hearted. I find that I listen to it somewhat like the music — in bursts. And in the right mood — my first encounter with Po was fairly negative as I was a bit tense — not relaxing music. And finally it is also hard to describe — so these reviews will be more overviews rather than the usual detailed description. I will also work through in a non-sequential order on the basis of accessibility (to me).

The Trio is Chris Burns, Nicolas Caloia and John Heward on guitar, bass and drums, and that more traditional lineup delivers the most accessible album. While the instruments are all given fairly equal value in the mix, the guitar predominates, probably because you can do more with it in sonic terms — even more as we’ll see on the other albums. The first six tracks, titled ’Presence #X’ are relatively short, between 3 to 8 minutes, shift through relaxed twangy guitar and a solo in #1, through the faster #2 with some sliding-ping guitar, to the bass driven #3 in which the instruments gradually coalesce but remain tentative. Strange creaks twangs and scratches on #4 develops a western guitar and buzzy bass, while #5 opens with a melodic guitar/bass set, becoming scratchy and edgy before a short drum solo that presages a more extended solo in #6 with light bass and guitar behind out of which some bendy guitar builds. The final track is a more extended 20 minutes and sees the group work through moods which have been presented individually in the shorter pieces, building from a very soft scrape through some buzzing to a drum pushed noise guitar solo, dropping to a brief drum solo joined by restrained guitar and bass, then almost silence before another gradual development to a shimmeringly percussive climax then fading. The instrumentation is well balanced and the approach never gets too harsh on this disk which makes it the easiest listening — though none are easy.

Next to Belan Mecanique, the superest-group here — six members on sax, trombone, bass, keyboards, guitar and drums. This was my second choice — I initially had favourite, but this set is too diverse for favourites — because while the size of the group tends for a full explosive sound, the diversity of instrumentation provides a broad sound palette which offers the most variation. The group offer a mixture of three short pieces — basically 1 or 2 minute full on aural explosions, and four much longer pieces which allow them to explore their dynamic. The tracks tend to be precipitous rolling sound works where each member is driving away, separately but somehow providing some cohesion, easing back at times. The ear either picks out particular instruments or the engineers place people at different places in the mix at different times. ’Gypt Gore use the idea of action painting in one of their titles, but it works for this too. ’Les elephants n’oublient jamais’ for instance turns through fast honking sax with drums and sliding trombone added, keyboards whizz almost sci fi. A quieter period before the drifting vortex gets bigger and bigger, easing to allow the piano to be heard, then the trombone moves forward, gtr sax and xylophone into a restrained minimal section, piano sax and rim drums swinging in to a soft end. There is a mysterious mood throughout ’Rouages’ that builds to a choppy quacking centre before drifting back to a lighter touch via some descending guitar and trombone laughter. Some more ambient periods (in relative terms) through ’Brule-pourpoint’ emphasise the range that the group can work in while the final ’Racines’ has some nice sax swing and even beer house piano. While there is more democracy in this group, the wind instruments probably are more distinct in the wall of sound with the guitar playing a more supportive role. The keyboards — which include some electronica — provide interesting shading while the rhythm section keeps things moving. The dynamism seen here, and the variations, make this disk very re-approachable.

’Gypt Gore is primarily Philemon (sax) and Sam Shalabi (guitar) who were also in Balai. They carry the energy from that group, but the music is constrained by the instrumentation. The music is exciting — they are like a perpetual motion machine as the sax blows wildly and the guitar picks and plays short fast and furious. Luckily there are periods where the playing is slower or more restrained — the slow and sensuous opening to ’Flakes’ for example or ’Narcoma action painting’ which has the speed but seems somehow more relaxed. On a couple of tracks Thierry Amar (bass on Balai) joins and the playing becomes more relaxed: in ’Corridors tresses’ it adds a depth and the solos are gentler and then ’Blue soon’ has a slow bass entry and the sax and guitar are gentler and there is a sensuous sax solo — perhaps having the rhythm instrument gave the group a more grounded approach. An additional guitar (Andrew Dickson) appears on two tracks and again there seems more restraint on ’Flakes’ and there are drones and some nice duets in ’Navigation pacifique’. The full intensity and focus of this album are what make it less easily absorbed, but it is absorbing and dramatic.

Po present seven ’Provocative Operations’ that combine drums, two guitars (including prepared) and double bass in what was for me the most difficult album. It may be that the instruments have been most removed from their ’natural’ sounds here making it more demanding or the more oblique attacks. It opens with brief warming up before a bubbling machine of sound — scrapey guitar mumbles as the music drives on, and there appears to be some bowing as the music get quieter. In the second part scratching and squeaks with a slow percussion, sounds like violin and piano, building puttery, then ringing prepared guitar, strong bass stepping, a sort of static momentum of sound; lots of short notes with a Chinese feel; growls purrs and plitterplatter to a big climax. The third part has squeaks and growls (of wind?) that dialogue with twangy guitar into a dense web of notes (that sounds like some multitracking but the suggestion is these recordings mirror the live experience). An uncertain rhythm builds through the fourth, the maelstrom of sound including some sitar-guitar, and a rolling drum keeps a couple of guitars in chop. With the fifth piece Po show they can create atmospheric filmic moods, subtle with a Theremin or bowed-saw sound from the guitar. In six things hot up again, the band futzing along as a melodic guitar plays, then paralleled by a fast guitar in a duel/t, softening and rebuilding before some motor-bowed guitar. Finally another more contemplative piece, tinkling, strumming, a hollow percussion (prepared guitar), building a little but held back. This album takes the sounds further and generally brings the listener along with them, if the ears are open and clear.

This is a daring product for No Type to come out with — people who know the Montréal scene will be drawn to it, but in the wider world there may be more uncertainty. While I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone (in fact I wouldn’t for most things I review — we all have such different tastes and preferences) I would suggest that people who are interested in improvised music, tending to the jazz end, seriously consider it whether as an introduction to the form or an addition to their collection. I enjoyed these disks more than I thought I would — improv is an area I am developing my listening skills in. The variety between and within the performances means that there is much that will interest most people, and it offers a great opportunity (at a good price) to listen to some mainly intense music (though there is some light and shade which allow you to recover) which may stretch your expectations, and should definitely excite you.

(I don’t generally do this, but I looked on site and this set costs $40 (can) and had a 10% discount when I was there. As a single album costs $25 (can), this is great value.)

This is a daring product for No Type to come out with…


Paul Bijlsma, Phosphor, 18 mai 2003

No Type was founded in 1998 to become a microcosm of artistic freedom for a rich diversity of musicians. Their sampler is proof of the development that took place since then. Headphone Science is the first to be featured on this sampler. This California based project by Dustin Craig offers a combination of catchy electronics and hip-hop vocals. The song is no less than 10 minutes long. Much shorter is the next contribution by Balai Mécanique. A sort of free-jazz noise track, which ends where PO starts. Again free improvisation with an experimental touch is the main ingredient. Books on Tape is next. The music by this formation, who already released a 10” entitled Hey typical!, is based upon rock, but with enough external influences, like a groovy drumbox rhythm, to keep the concept fresh. Coin Gutter, another artist that already released some material on No Type (All your dreams are meaningless), offers one of the highlights here. The excellent combination of a strange female vocal sample (saying “he’s gone”), dark, robust, ominous electronics and the ticking of an alarm clock will give the listener a positive unpleasant feeling. Claudia Bonarelli, known from the album Everything happens only a certain number of times (Mitek) offered another excellent contribution. Dense mechanical hypnotic rhythms, slightly reminding of Porter Ricks and GAS, have been put in an intelligent setting. Watch out for the upcoming 10” May ’68! Also dark is A_dontigny and Diane Labrosse’s contribution, in which a pounding beat and a rich variation of noises have been combined. Tomas Jirku, who will release the album Bleak 1999 in August, has been featured here with a minimal funky relaxed techno track. Magali Babin offers a beautiful dark organic track with sounds of scraping metal and a rhythm reminding of a train. If her album Chemin de fer is just like this, the CD might become immense popular in the industrial scene. Unfortunately Oeuf Korreckt does a little less, with synthetic synth tunes and a cheap rhythm. And morceaux_de_machines ends this compilation with a stressful noise piece. This No Type sampler provides the listener a good glimpse of the musical diversity this label has to offer.