Lepage, Lussier et le Quatuor Bozzini — Chants et danses … with strings – TDB9019
Founding fathers of the musique actuelle movement, the clarinet and guitar duo of Robert Marcel Lepage and René Lussier, are reunited after a lengthy hiatus. True to their playful streak and commitment to sonic experimentations of all kinds, they pick up where they left off more than twenty years ago. Both have a sense of humour, most notably in the whimsical titles, two of which translate roughly as “Strings as the key to success” or “How to keep the sacred fire without burning one’s capital.” Not only that, but the cover illustration is a sly allusion to the 1950 Charlie Parker with Strings album, the Bozzini quartet providing their bows for a few cameo appearances. In fact, the album is a pure studio creation, assembled out of independently recorded tracks by all concerned.
Yves Charuest — (Un)fold – TDB9021
In June 2014, alto saxophonist Yves Charuest and his trio Still performed in Montreal with the Catalonian pianist Augusti Fernández. Three years later, an album from this group appears, a studio effort recorded the day after their show. Improvised from start to finish, the music spreads over five tracks and unfurls in rapid-fire gestures, as if they were creating a musical equivalent to Jackson Pollock’s action painting. The group is relentless in its chases but refrains from going over the top; listeners, for their part, are given but a few seconds to catch their breath between tracks. It seems that the quartet decided to follow a very specific game plan, hence the impression of a certain sameness to their performances.
Éric Normand — Mattempa – TDB9018
Bassist Éric Normand has drawn inspiration here from the work of the late Jacques Ferron, a well-known literary personality in Quebec. In the liner notes, the musician states that this recording is the first of a series of instrumental albums derived from the writer’s oeuvre. Mattempa is a legendary figure, a mythical giant contained in a story that underpins the music of this recording. More impressionistic in tone, this imaginary soundtrack unfolds slowly, with ethereal-sounding themes surfacing along the way. For want of a better term, the music could be labelled as a kind of chamber-like take on musique actuelle, performed here by a quintet of electric bass, cello, pocket trumpet, percussion, and the dual reeds (soprano sax, bass clarinet) of Montreal’s Philippe Lauzier. Although sophisticated in approach, for the non-initiated this music may also serve as the best introduction to the Tour de Bras label.
GGRIL — Ceci n’est pas un poème – TDB9015
Like the preceding release, this one is also text-based, in this instance writings from prisoners of opinion, either sung or recited in English, French, or Spanish. Subdued for the most part, the mood is disrupted by occasional outbreaks of improvisational mayhem. Eight members of the GGRIL are on board here, including Normand, the leader of this ten-track 54-minute work. A dark work, but very much in keeping with its subject matter.
Rowetor 03-04 – TDB9020 (Double)
More radical in approach, the stylings of Rowetor, a 15-piece orchestra of German improvisers nominally headed by tuba player Carl-Ludwig Hübsch, offers a kind of static minimalism. Each disc contains a single piece, the first clocking in at over 40 minutes, the second around a half hour. The instruments blend in such a way as to meld into one another, creating a kind of indistinct mass that reaches mid-volume at loudest. This approach — one that has its following in Europe, particularly in the German-speaking countries — offers little in terms of relief, save for subtle and at times achingly slow variations of timbre. You either turn on … or switch off. It’s your call.