Montréal’s very active local music scene is characterized by an independence of spirit and a penchant for experimentation, epitomized best by the Ambiances Magnétiques label.
Two recent recordings on Ambiances manifest the variety of music that falls under the heading of musique actuelle. The first is Risque et pendule by l’Ensemble Pierre Labbé. Labbé himself plays the tenor saxophone and flute, but his sextet is really a string band that features the violin and cello of Nathalie Bonin and Julie Trudeau respectively, the electric guitar of Bernard Falaise, and the rhythm section of Frédéric Alarie (bass) and Claude Lavergne (drums). The music has a cinematic feel - the compositions move from episode to episode, and the instruments seem to “talk” against one another. Labbé uses all the colors that his instrumental palette allows, and the musicians pull off the whole thing with panache.
Ga Ma Ra is the trio of percussionist Ganesh Anandan, violinist Malcolm Goldstein, and guitarist Rainer Wiens, and their first album is Speaking in Tongnes. The interest here is in the interplay among these three mature voices. While the liner notes do not say so, the music appears to be mostly improvised. Firmly rooted in their respective traditions - South Asian, contemporary classical, jazz - Anandan, Goldstein, and Wiens are nonetheless able to communicate quite effectively with music that speaks to the possibility of an organic fusion of voices.