Late last year, the thriving Québécois alternative indie label Ambiances Magnétiques put out no less than seven new tides. In the decade since the creation of its parent distribution company DAME, this label has tripled its catalogue, from the modest 24 issued in its first nine years on the market to an even 100 as of the New Year. Generally knawn under the heading of musique actuelle, this label’s aesthetic is as much rooted in the prog rock field of the ’70s and ’80s as it is in a range of eclectic improvisational practices.
From its latest crop, these two discs showcase some of the label’s familiar faces. The first, Polaroïde, is infused by a chamber-music aesthetic. One need not go further than its instrumentation of acoustic guiar, viola and drums/percussion to get the hint. The very disparate backgrounds of the players is worth noting. The leader, guitarist André Duchesne, is a 30-year veteran of dhe Québécois art-rock scene who seems to have tumed into a “switched off" improviser since breaking a lengthy perfomming and recording hiatus in the past couple of years. In contrast, violist Jean Rene is thoroughly trained in classical music and has extensive expe rience as an orchestral player. Drummer Pierre Tanguay is a musique actuelle regular.
In spite of this unlikely combination, a meeting of minds does occur over the disc’s 12 tracks. With four tracks bearing the CD title, one could be tempted to all: about improvisational snapshots, each one allowing finely demiled sonic pictures to develop gradually before one’s ears. Though there are no composer credits, either individual or collective, there are many moments which manage to attain dhe clarity of a well-conceived score. The obliquely written notes (uncredited) do refer to Stravinsky, and a nod to Bartok would also have been welcome.