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Biliana Voutchkova / Michael Thieke: Blurred Music (elsewhere)

Berlin-based violinist Biliana Voutchkova and German clarinetist Michael Thieke (Magic I.D., International Nothing) present a stunning achievement in blending compositional, pre-structured material with live improvisation, creating a blurring of virtually identical sections that create microtonal anomalies in timing, rhythm, timbre and motive, as heard in 3 amazing performances. ... Click to View


Matthew Revert / Vanessa Rossetto: Everyone Needs A Plan (erstwhile)

The second collaboration between sounds artist Vanessa Rossetto and writer and sound artist Matthew Revert is a monumental work that studies the evolution of communication through fragments of spoken words, and a rich tapestry of sound from acoustic and electronic instruments, field recordings, and perplexing and dramatic sources of sound. ... Click to View


Lucio Capece / Marc Baron: My Trust In You (erstwhile)

Two electroacoustic improvisers and composers--Lucio Capece on reeds, analog synths, effects, field recordings, drums machines, speakers in motion, and Marc Baron on field recordings and analog devices--developed these 6 extraordinary recordings that blend motion, perspective, sound and noise, and concrete references in a mystifying and mesmerizing journey in sound. ... Click to View


Melaine Dalibert : Musique pour le lever du jour (elsewhere)

Inspired by the work of Hungarian-born French media artist Vera Molnar, and by the vicissitudes of natural phenomena, French pianist and composer Melaine Dalibert developed algorithmic procedures to compose this work, translating to "Music for the Daybreak", as an illusory "endless piece" of meditative layered, resonant music in the mode of Morton Feldman. ... Click to View


Otomo Yoshihide / Paal Nilssen-Love: 19th of May, 2016 (PNL)

An intensively diverse and thrilling game of "cat and dog" between Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love and Japanese guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, performing live at Dom Cultural Center, Moscow, Russia in 2016 for two extended improvisations that exemplify incredible technical skills, reflective and introspective dialog, and cathartic release; absolutely impressive. ... Click to View


Marker (w/ Ken Vandermark): Wired For Sound (Audiographic Records)

The debut from this Chicago band merging strong grooves with free playing, with 2 guitarists--Andrew Clinkman & Steve Marquette, plus Macie Stewart on keys & violin, Phil Sudderberg on drums, and Ken Vandermark on reeds, each of the 3 tracks dedicated to an artist: Belgian movie director Chantal Akerman; German choreographer Pina Bausch; and Anthony Braxton and Bernie Worrell. ... Click to View


Vandermark / Kugel / Tokar: No-Exit Corner (Not Two)

the second CD by the trio featuring the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, the drummer Klaus Kugel, and the bassist Mark Tokar has the band back at Krakow's Alchemia Club, bringing these three Chicago and European players together for a skronky, energetic romp of commanding playing alongside unorthodox approaches and powerfully creative intent. ... Click to View


Bobby Zankel & The Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker at 65 (Not Two)

Celebrating bassist and composer William Parker's 65th birthday at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia in a band led by Bobby Zankel on alto saxophone, Muhammad Ali on drums, Dave Burrell on piano, Steve Swell on trombone, Diane Monroe on violin, and William Parker himself on bass, in a 4-part suite of beautifully turbulent and masterful free jazz. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Fred Marty / Carlos Santos: Jardin Carre (Creative Sources)

French double bassist Fred Marty joins Creative Sources core performers, violist Ernesto Rodrigues, cellist Guilherme Rodrigues and electronic artist Carlos Santos for an extensive improvisation exploring both lyrical and pointillistic improvisation, themed loosely around a garden quartet or frame, the music detailed, active and formidably sophisticated. ... Click to View


Urlich Mitzlaff : Ten Sonic Miniatures about the "Scream" by Edvard Munch (Creative Sources)

Using Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" as his muse, German cellist living in Portugal, Ulrich Mitzlaff, presents 10 acoustic miniatures from just over a minute to 4 1/2 minutes in length, including wildly interactive moments of delirium to darkly melodic bowed passages, using his impressive technique to create vivid depictions of Munch's work. ... Click to View


4! (Patrizia Oliva / Carlo Mascolo / Domenico Saccente / Felice Furioso): Factorial (Creative Sources)

Free electroacoustic improvisation from the Italian quartet of Patrizia Oliva on voice, electronics, bawu, objects, Carlo Mascolo on prepared trombone, Domenico Saccente on accordion and prepared piano, and Felice Furioso on drums, cupa cupa, contrabbassa, sounded objects, using voice and unusual instrumentation to guide unusual and forward-thinking improv. ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot : Reflections on an Introspective Path (Neither/Nor Records)

French-Japanese violist Frantz Loriot's first solo album takes the viola into unusual territory, using an acousmatic approach to create music and sounds with no visual reference by transforming the sound of the viola through preparations and remarkable extended techniques, layering and assembling his works to create concrete statements of movement. ... Click to View


Costa's Acustica, Carlo: Strata (Neither/Nor Records)

New York composer and drummer Carlo Costa assembled this accomplished ensemble of NY improvisers for a live performance at IBeam in Brooklyn, capturing his piece "Strata" that evolves layers of sound from very sparse to densely yet accesibly stacked sound, varying recurring material to change perspectives in the aural space as the piece progresses; impressive. ... Click to View


Flin van Hemmen (w/ Neufeld / Obsvik): Drums of Days (Neither/Nor Records)

Debut album as a leader from drummer and pianist Flin van Hemmen, an evocative album of original compositions and improvisations recorded in a trio with Eyvind Opsvik on double bass and Todd Neufeld on acoustic guitar, with Tony Malaby on alto and soprano sax on one track; a beautifully cinematic and poetic album that allows for space and reflection. ... Click to View


Peter Blegvad : Bandbox [6 CD BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

Starting with Blegvad's "Downtime" LP, this box traces the evolution of the Peter Blegvad Trio into a quintet with Karen Mantler and Bob Drake, released in a solid box with a double CD of alternate versions, unreleased material and live performances, plus a 72 page book of photographs, memorabilia, drawings, documents and recollections; the ultimate reissue! ... Click to View


Roberto Musci / Giovanni Venosta: Messages & Portraits (2018 Edition) (Recommended Records)

A welcome reissue of two 1980s, forward-thinking albums of electronic compositions from Milanese ethnomusicologist composers, sound engineers and performers Giovanni Venosta and Roberto Musci, incorporating exotic field recordings from their world travels into accessibly sophisticated pieces, creating unexpectedly innovative, novel and melodically rich hybrids. ... Click to View


Vitor Rua & The Metaphysical Angels: When Better Isn't Quite Good Enough [2 CDs] (Recommended Records)

Guitarist Vitor Rua (GNR, Telectu) recorded the 15 pieces of this 2-CD set first as a series of overdubbed solo improvisations, using his virtuosic skills to create intriguing and compelling works, which he orchestrated and recorded with the quintet of Hernani Faustino on bass, Luis San Payo on drums, Manuel Guimaraes on organ, Nuno Reis on trumpet, and Paulo Galao on clarinets. ... Click to View


Allen Ravenstine : Waiting For The Bomb [VINYL] (Recommended Records)

Many years after Pere Ubu and his work as a pilot, one of the world's most unique synth players, Allen Ravenstine, releases an album of composed works, 18 discrete hybrid miniature sound worlds that blend acoustic, real-world and synthetic sounds in unorthodox ways that elusively twist conventional approaches with unexpected elements and narrative twists. ... Click to View


Lance Olsen Austin : Dark Heart (Another Timbre)

Four fascinating and detailed compositions from Canadian composer and painter Lance Austin Olsen, each work giving the performers space to collaborate on the results, using graphic scores and Cage-like elements from recordings; performers include Terje Paulsen, Gil Sanson, Ryoko Akama, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Katelyn Clark, Patrick Farmer and Apartment House. ... Click to View


Alex Jang : Momentary Encounters (Another Timbre)

Four fragile and mostly minimal works by Victoria-based composer Alex Jang, performed by the Apartment House ensemble, with solo pieces by Heather Roche on clarinet + field recordings, one with Cristian Alvear on guitar, an acoustic quintet, and "any three players" designed for any mix of instrumentation, here on melodica, vibraphone & cello. ... Click to View


Linda Smith Catlin: Wanderer (Another Timbre)

Eight sophisticated chamber pieces composed by Linda Catlin Smith and realized by the Canadian Apartment House ensemble, including a solo piano performed by Philip Thomas, a piano duo with Thomas and Mark Knoop, and works for percussion & cello, 2 quintet pieces for strings, percussion and winds, and two 7-piece conducted works with two percussionists, strings and brass. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : O Zomer! (Another Timbre)

Two ensemble works and two solo pieces by Christian Wolff's favourite contemporary composer, Cassandra Miller, who is blazing a very personal trail through the experimental music world, with brilliant performances by Apartment House, Mira Benjamin, Philip Thomas, and Charles Curtis with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : Just So (Another Timbre)

A disc of extraordinary string works by Canadian composer Cassandra Miller, presenting four string quartets superbly played by the Quatuor Bozzini quartet of Clemens Merkel on violin, Alissa Cheung on violin, Stephanie Bozzini on viola, and Isabelle Bozzini on cello, including the large work "About Bach", awarded the Jules Leger Prize for New Chamber Music. ... Click to View


Bucher / Countryman (w/ Simon Tan / Isla Antinero): Extremely Live in Manila (ChapChap Records)

A live concert in Quezon City from the Manila based duo of Rich Countryman on alto saxophone and Swiss drummer Christian Bucher, who are joined on one track by acoustic bassist Simon Tan and trombonist Isla Antinero. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Adam Pultz Melbye / kriton b.: The Distant Sound Within (Creative Sources)

Three strings--cello from Guilherme Rodrigues, double bass from Adam Pultz Melbye, and viola from Ernesto Rodrigues--plus harmonium and objects from Kriton Beyer, in a live performance at Kuhlspot Social Club in Berlin, each of the 9 movements a concentrative work named with a three-letter onomatopoeia, as the players draw sound from a mysterious dark distance. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Machinefabriek: Engel (Machinefabriek)

Rutger Zuydervelt, AKA Machinefabriek, expanded the existing score for Marta Alstadsaeter & Kim-Jomi Fischer's dance piece "Engel", which is a contemporary piece combining dance and circus acrobatics, the new soundtrack a large work combining rich mirages of electronica, ambient sound, assertive noise, and even a section of Paal Nilessen-Love's drumwork. ... Click to View


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  Big Sounds in a Small Town  

The Victoriaville Festival celebrates, or at least notices, its 20th anniversary


By Kurt Gottschalk
Photos by Martin Morissette 2003-06-19

Last year, after the 19th annual Festival International de Musicque Actuelle de Victoriaville, I asked festival organizer Michel Levasseur if he had big plans for Victo's 20th birthday. His response was, quite simply, that it was just another year and that he didn't see any reason why it should be a bigger deal than any other year.

Still, there were signs all over the small town (with a population of about 40,000, 7,000 tickets sold over the course of the five-day festival represent a noticeable swell on the streets every Victoria Day weekend) celebrating the anniversary, and a downtown bank gave away pieces of a birthday cake inscribed to FIMAV. Mentions of the anniversary from the stage, however, were rare. And while there were big sets from big names with long histories at the fest, other performances almost seemed to reinforce the idea that anniversaries are no big deal. Along with the stars and the oddities, a current of small sounds, well amplified, ran through the five-day festival.

Frith, Lussier, Etc.
Fred Frith, Maxime Lepage, René Lussier, Tom Walsh
Rene Lussier and Fred Frith performed at the first festival in 1983, and a duo set was the first release on Victo records, so it was fitting enough that the Quebecois guitarist opened the first night of the fest with Frith in his band. The nonet played deeply deconstructed folk songs from Lussier's record Tombola Rasa, with melodies sometimes only vaguely recognizable. Some pieces were played by smaller groupings of the ensemble, but when the full group played they toyed with familiar melodies and themes that would dissolve and break apart frustratingly fast, phrases filtering, sweltering, smelting, flowing, growing but never quite gelling. It wasn't until the third song, with Lussier singing, that that Franco-Dixie-St. Germaine sources became apparent (at least to a listener visiting from the States).

Excellent support was provided especially by violinist Liette Remon and clarinetist Lori Freedman, but the nine people onstage were an orchestra (as well as a big band and a hootenanny), with all the diversity and arrangement that befits an orchestra. Euro jazz, mountain music, hula, funk and, of course, the inexplicable, the actuelle and French lyrics were incorporated, reminding visitors from the south that North American music comes from all over North America.

Fred Frith returned three nights later with Montreal's Nouvel Ensemble Moderne to present three composed works (including Traffic Continues released in 2000 by Winter & Winter) intertwined into a long suite over 75 minutes.

While the pieces were a little too similar to combine into a dynamic suite, the performance was enhanced by sonically theatrical staging. Musicians rose from their seats and moved to the side of the stage, playing and speaking without microphones (as with almost all of the sets at Victo, the performers were otherwise well miked and the sound was exemplary), dropping wooden blocks on the stage floor and creating an acoustic sound field within the piano syncopation and complex, linear, nonrepeating oboe and flute lines emanating from the p.a. Frith took over the conducting from ensemble leader Lorraine Vaillancourt for brief interludes of real-time arrangements before slinking back to the side of the stage to punctuate with his prepared guitar. It was an interesting, romantic, static, intelligent and lucid suite. The pieces no doubt stand better distinct, but what should be expected from an inventive mind other than inventive ways to present its work?

The Victo festival also has a long relationship with the Montreal label Ambiences Magnetiques, which was represented in several of the concerts, including a duet by Jean Derome and Joane Hétu, the husband/wife team that co-founded and run the label.

Intimacy is a word that gets thrown around a lot in discussions of music: intimate clubs, intimate atmospheres, intimate concerts, intimate albums. But the intimacy of family, of a gracious couple entertaining guests, brings an altogether different nuance to the claim. Derome and Hétu are perfect hosts, jointly relating stories, complimenting without interrupting each other. They surely must be the sort of couple that defers conversational points to each other, depending on who "tells it better."

Joane Hetu
Joane Hétu
Hétu on alto and vocals, Derome on alto, flute, bass flute and an array of sound-making devices, both singing and vocalizing, their songs (sung in French) were miniature portraits of domesticity and getting along, imparting a feeling of cooking dinner while the news plays in the next room. Intimate enough as to simply breathe into the microphone and through the saxophone. And jazz being the macho business that it is, you have to appreciate a guy who'll go onstage and play patty-cake with his wife.

Mike Patton has more recently become a regular on the Victo program, but nevertheless pulled together a program of note. His Fantomas, playing in tandem with The Melvins as the Fantomas Melvins Big Band, had only done one previous concert before they closed the last night of the fest. They began as a double trio with two singers, two bassists and two drummers in perfect sync. Two rock bands demanding sacrifice in unision, like Black Sabbath looking in a mirror. From there they broke into bpm noise and huge thrash metal. It was the festival's closing party and it's money shot, and they rocked freakin' suitably. Flipping between anthemic speed grinds and tense, sparse, hilarious segues, the assault came to an end with all six bashing on cymbals for more than a short time. Learned listeners run the risk of overlooking them because they might not be good, or at least not especially innovative, and indeed Mike Patton has become very adept at doing other people's ideas well. But what matters about rock bands has never been if they're good. What matters about rock bands is if they rock.

Another blockbuster set was a double trio fronted by Peter Brötzmann and Evan Parker. They opened with an all-out twin tenor Coltrane attack. The two saxophones began a simple unison theme and took only moments to turn that into sheer energy. They truly were a double trio: Brötzmann, drummer Hamid Drake and bassist William Parker leaving the stage early on to give Evan Parker, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Paul Lytton the spotlight, then Parker and von Schlippenbach setting down a series of short statements, separated by brief pauses while Lytton lightly rolled across cymbals and snare.

The sextet moved beyond its double-trio structure and into a rotating ensemble. Different passages in the unbreaking piece included quintets with each of the horns stepping out, a remarkable trio with von Schlippenbach's piano and the two drummers and a bass/drum duo by Parker and Drake. The sextet ended, dissolving until a few lone notes hung in the air. An unnecessary but welcome encore brought them back to the stage, and back to the Trane. In a festival revolving so much around the new and unusual, it was great to hear free jazz this good.

Perhaps the most excitement was generated by two sets from John Zorn, and indeed it was odd coming from New York to hear over 1,000 people screaming for one of his game pieces. Zorn presented a big, fat, long Cobra, thickly coiled and taking its own sweet time to strike. And with Mr. Zorn approaching the dawn of his sixth decade, it was a more generous Cobra as well, with the leader at the prompter's pulpit offering players the opportunity to lead the piece, a move known as 'guerilla tactics' that once had to be claimed, not merely accepted, by participants. (Alternately, Zorn ended some moves early, seeming to break with game piece tradition in order to ensure a stronger musical result.)

Cobra is the most played of Zorn's game pieces, a set of rules that impose structure on improvisation and allow players to direct the performance even as they're playing. At its core, it's about using personality clashes and sympathies to create an environment automatically tailored for any set of musicians. This meeting, however, didn't explore individual or cultural divides. Zorn used the structure as a compositional tool more than he allowed players to contend against each other to build something not entirely controllable. Cobras of late have become more musical and less contentious anyway. This one was immense, monolithic and satisfying, thanks primarily to Diane Labrosse's fierce, grinding noise and guest Makagami Koichi's leaps and screams.

Electric Masada have been woodshedding a more orchestrated, fast-cut version of the latest take on the Masada songbook, but unfortunately the group was in jam band mode for their set. An unusually powerful, syncopated, melodic and structured set was presented by some other visiting New Yorkers, however. Mephista were more dynamic than ever, visually cuing each other and even referring to scores, a direction which, according to laptop percussionist Ikue Mori, the group has developed with recent heavy touring.

MINIATURES

Sparse electronic music can have a microscopic effect, like listening to photosynthesis or cells dividing. When it's done well, it can carry the feeling of the lives we live zoomed in to an unrecognizable degree. Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse, both Canadian, worked that angle well, pairing soft crackles and reverberating whirs with slow black-and-white videos of pedestrians shot from overhead. The walkers got nowhere, the documentation of their simple tasks slowed, reversed and repeated, displayed on four monitors surrounding the audience. It was life slowed to a crawl, mental activity not mattering, biological functions continuing.

The miniature music was amplified to epic proportions with a quintet comprised of Quebecers Diane Labrosse and Martin Tetreault and French improvisers Xavier Charles and the duo Kristoff K. Roll. The electronics-and-small-objects ensemble invited observers into the physical space, setting up in a circle in the middle of the room and asking the audience to promenade around them, revealing their many sound sources to full view. The quintet included Labrosse's laptop and Tetreault's turntable, but otherwise relied on cups of lentils, kitchen utensils, rubber bands, aluminum foil, plastic toys, cds dropped onto a zither being moved arross a tabletop scattered with rice. Charles' clarinet provided the only strictly musical sounds; his short squeaks and breathy tones would push the edges in a jazz context, but against the rattle of this giant junk drawer it sounded deceptively melodious. The rest was amplified more than it was altered, coming off deceptively like electronically generated music when it was really the sounds of inanimate life, with the volume up.

Another quintet seemed to embody not the sound but the actual movement of thousands of small objects. In an excellent set by Kazue Sawai, Michel Doneda, Kazuo Imai, Le Quan Ninh and Tetsu Saitoh, the players were in constant movement, flying under the radar of chaos. Guitar, bass and koto strings were rubbed and rubbed hard while Le Quan worked metal edges against his table-mounted bass drum. Doneda darted above and circled below with his soprano. They were frenetic, energetic, quietly fast and fantastic.

Krebs Neumann
Annette Krebs & Andrea Neumann
The microsonic plane was further explored by two essentially acoustic players, Annette Krebs on guitar and Andrea Neumann playing the strings and metal frame of a piano stripped of keys, pedals and wooden casing. With contact mikes placed on the guitar laid across her lap, Krebs applied steel wool, brushes and bows to her hypersensitive strings. Likewise, Neumann's playing had less to do with the vibration of strings than what can be made to happen upon them. The sounds themselves weren't of particular note. Instead, their aesthetic is about a shared penchant for placing the sounds, and they work quiet beautifully together.



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