Blog ›› Archive ›› By Category ›› Press

29 January 2018
By Doug Ramsey in Arts Journal, January 29, 2018


“… volcanic activity.”

The daring American pianist Marilyn Crispell’s free jazz adventures have more than once been compared to volcanic activity. Here, Crispell joins the Scottish saxophonist Raymond MacDonald and the French-Canadian bassist and electronic adventurer Pierre Alexandre Tremblay. The project’s tectonic aspects alternate with moments so peaceful that they sometimes verge on the soporific—but not for long. That is particularly true in the beginning moments of Duo#1. It opens with percussive slaps followed by vague sounds that may be either from Tremblay’s bass or his digital equipment. Soon, MacDonald appears on soprano saxophone. He and Crispell are off on the first of the album’s duets, her sensitive keyboard touch ameliorating and occasionally abetting, his chattering exclamations. Duo#2 finds Crispell and MacDonald in deep musical conversation that incorporates spontaneous mutual phrasing reflecting not only creative compatibility but also uncanny conjunctions of rhythmic like-thinking.

The opening of Trio#1 is electronic, a bit ominous. A couple of minutes in, Crispell’s delicate, sporadic piano interjections begin mingling with Tremblay’s digital sounds as MacDonald’s tenor saxophone rumbles softly, then not so softly, then insistently. Before the track ends, the tenor melds into ruminations accompanied by wind chimes or their electronic equivalent. Through Trio#2, bowed bass and percussion dominate. The music is quiet and at the same time active. Trio#3 ends the album in an atmosphere heavy with portent that evaporates as the music slowly fades away. The listener—this one, in any case—is bewitched and puzzled, and listens again from the top.

blogue@press-5776 press@5776
29 January 2018
By Vito Camarretta in Chain DLK (USA), January 29, 2018


Montréal-based sound-artist, performer and composer Nicolas Bernier recently dropped a new release on the label of Acte community (grouping some experimental sound artists on an edge of innovation, who are active in Montréal area). According to the introduction by the label, Transfert / Futur, the title of this release “marks a shift from Nicolas Bernier’s rather reductionist approach of the previous series to a more expressive and colorful aesthetic.” We tried to find out the reason by talking to its author.

Chain DLK: Hi, Nicolas! How are you?

Nicolas Bernier: Fine! In the middle of the electronic music students concerts at Université de Montréal, so my head is (even more) overloaded with sounds this week!

Chain DLK: Before focusing on Transfert / Futur, some introductory words for the readers who don’t know you… first of all, how did the spark for experimental music (if you agree with such a way of labeling it) become a fire?

Nicolas Bernier: I think the desire for experimentation, to get out of the common musical formulas, has always been there. For instance, even when I was doing folk music (among other punk, post-metal, and every conceivable rock variation) when I was a teenager, I was the one plugging effects, pedal and distortion and playing progressive patterns on my, well, mandolin! Just the fact of playing the mandolin was experimental in the era of power trios.

I am totally fine with the term “experimental.” I actually quite like it, as it puts forward the ideas of trying things to get to a result, on the experience, on the sensitivity, which is one of the main reasons to make music or art. There is no experimental aesthetic, per se; it’s more a state of mind before anything else.

Chain DLK: You said Transfert / Futur is the beginning of a new stage in your artistic and creative path… could you tell us something about the previous stages and the way they interrelate with the present time?

Nicolas Bernier: … And maybe not a long stage, to be honest. I don’t know yet, but I don’t think it will live 7 or 8 years like the previous “frequencies” cycle of works. All my creative cycles are reacting to the previous one. The frequencies were following cycles based on machine and field recordings, so I wanted to avoid this noisy universe to get back towards more basic sounds. The starting point was the sine wave of the acoustic tuning forks, but also the electronic sine wave and micro-sounds.

The funny thing is, while my projects are reactions to the previous ones, the previous will always be included in one way or another in the current ones. The title Transfert / Futur is, in the first place, a way to talk about science fiction, which is the main topic of this new series. But, on a more technical and personal level, it is also a transfer of the previous series within a totally new context. The piece Transfert (299 792 458 m/s) started out by transferring to synthesizers the midi sequences I used in the very first piece performance of the frequencies series. The second piece, Futur (299 792 458 m/s), also started from an old, unused and unfinished synth-based composition that was actually my very first midi sequence I made around 2013, I think (before that date, I was refusing to work with midi and synth, working only with field recording in a musique concrète perspective).

Chain DLK: How many diapasons do you own? What’s the oddest one, and why?

Nicolas Bernier: That’s a good question. I’ve got a couple of drawers full of them, old to new, metal to aluminum, brown to silver. But I’d say around a hundred.

Most of them are just boring tuning forks, but there are a couple that are more interesting: a huge 30 Hz tuning fork, for instance, or the stroboscopic ones, or an old one from the Max Kohl Chemnitz company that was one of the main scientific apparatus suppliers in the late 19th century. But there is one I have a really special relationship with: the Secretan one. Secretan was the company who was commissioned for the official international pitch A=435 Hertz tuning fork in 1859 (before the norm was set to 440 Hz), the “diapason normal.” The tuning fork was once a really serious scientific and musical topic, and the official one was kept in a controlled environment so it’s frequency wouldn’t change over time; it was the Mother of all tuning forks. I don’ t remember how a Secretan tuning fork ended up in my collection one day, and since then, each time I open that drawer, I fantasize about having one of the most important artifacts of music history. But, I mean, it’s really just me inventing stories, as it is probably just another anonymous tuning fork.

Chain DLK: Most of the artists dealing with pure sounds or frequencies I spoke with told me they developed a sort of idiosyncrasy for “dirty” noises… What’s your relation to sound and noise?

Nicolas Bernier: With the frequencies series, I wanted to look towards some kind of purity… while staying well aware that I would never find it. And, frankly, I am not that interested in purity; I am usually more looking for equilibrium between elements. This search towards purer sounds led to a certain clarity in my artistic proposals, I think. I am not a sound racist: all sounds, whether purer or noisier or everything in between, can be of interest. It’s more a matter of how you organize your ideas and elements together.

Chain DLK: Did you use any of the machines you previously built on Transfert / Futur?

Nicolas Bernier: Nope. This album is 100% digital virtual synthesizers. So, pure in a way, but dirty at the same time in the way the elements are organized.

Chain DLK: Well… why did you quote the speed of light in the titles of Transfert / Futur? Any sci-fi-like reverie?

Nicolas Bernier: Basically, all my projects reflect my obsessions (my life is made of obsessions that usually stay for a couple of years, and then leave space for a new obsession and therefore a new series of projects). For the last couple of years, I’ve been obsessed with science fiction. Before 2014, Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey were basically 100% of my relationship with sci-fi, nothing else. But then I got hooked and I’ve been watching, reading and dreaming about parallel worlds, lasers, and humanoïds since then.

With the first project of the series was an installation where I wanted to recreate the feeling of the space travel scene at the end of 2001. So this is why I chose the speed of light as the main thread in the project, because my aim is to reflect those travels at light speed, those transfers to parallel zones, those spaceships full of neons and blinking control panels. And, well, the speed of light is saying that, as in my previous projects, I am still working with light, but with a different angle, a different sub-topic.

Chain DLK: The idea of attaching an interview (in French and English) in the booklet is pretty good…

Nicolas Bernier: I think so, too! It is something the label, Acte, really wants to keep in all their releases. It gives some content, some sense in releasing music in this era of unlimited downloads. A pretty exciting new label from Montréal, by the way, with a quite open-minded vision of what music should be in this 21st century.

Chain DLK: Most of the sounds in the second track synthèse (299 792 458 m/s) reminds me of something I did ages ago by short-outing circuits of some old drum machines… how did you create the sounds you included in this track?

Nicolas Bernier: This is quite interesting, as it is one more proof that the nature of the tools doesn’t really matter, whether they are analog or digital, old or new. Because, like I said earlier, this piece is 100% virtual synthesizers. No short circuits. All “clean” and planned, but composed in some kind of dirty ways that make it feel a bit improvised or out of control, even though it’s the complete opposite.

Chain DLK: Any word about the first half of Transfert / Futur?

Nicolas Bernier: In reaction to my previous series, one of the intentions of this new one is to NOT be conceptual, and transfert (299 792 458 m/s) is a good case in point. While I flirted with pop elements in my first releases a decade ago, I have always been away from the four on the floor type of music. This piece is a long ascension aiming to place a kick drum on every beat. In the end, the 4/4 stays a bit disarticulated, but we are pretty much as close as I get to more conventional rhythmic electronic music (aside from the scores I made for modern dance pieces, maybe). So it’s kind of a return to more intuitive and more physical music.

On the other hand, the visual, scenographic, installative or performative aspect is often an important component in my work these days. The music was composed beforehand and should then be able to live by itself as music, but in the end, it is also an audiovisual performance that pursues those science-fictional ideas. There is a glimpse of the performance here:

Chain DLK: How are you going to move this new series of releases forward? Any installation in progress or in your forthcoming plans?

Nicolas Bernier: I worked for years on a quite important installation project, but for some reason (mainly financial) I had to abandon it. I’ve got tons of other ideas, but as soon as your projects rely on the fabrication of tangible devices, it gets complicated technically and financially. So the future will tell.

blogue@press-5778 press@5778
23 January 2018
By George McVicar in Stray Landings (UK), January 23, 2018


“The ‘politics’ of Political Ritual remain somewhat unclear, but its ambiguity is addictive.”

Maxime Corbeil-Perron and Félix-Antoine Morin have released an intriguing new 12” with Ambiances Magnétiques: Political Ritual. The record presents two 20-minute pieces that work more like ‘sound sculptures’ than songs. They take as their subject the detritus of sound, the unwanted buzzes and resonances of technology. On Political Ritual, these sounds move out of the corners and rubbish bins and into plain sight. You are made to confront sound as it really is: caked in surface noise and sonic debris.

Political Ritual is a record of two halves. The first, ‘ Cérémonie ’, judders like a truck over bumpy terrain. There are moments of what sounds like hyper-engineered studio-production trickery. But in fact, many of these are from acoustic sources, like cellos and organs played in unorthodox styles. There is even the introduction of “a wedding harmonium bought from an old man in an Indian village”.

The unanswered questions left by ‘ Cérémonie ’ are concluded by the record’s second half: ‘ Projection cathodique ’. Here, elements of traditional ‘musicality’ creep in, like the bassline that broods over the piece. The ‘politics’ of Political Ritual remain somewhat unclear, but its ambiguity is addictive.

blogue@press-5774 press@5774
22 January 2018
By William Paulhus in Mes enceintes font défaut (Québec), January 22, 2018


“La progression est tout simplement impressionnante, les couches se multiplient avec une délicatesse déstabilisante. […] Un album de cette envergure se savoure avec une totale dévotion, sans quoi vous ne serez pas en mesure de saisir l’ampleur du travail qui se dissimule derrière chacune des notes. Il représente une expérience musicale pratiquement inqualifiable”

Le coup de foudre est survenu en 2016, dans la petite salle du MAC lors du festival Mutek Montréal. Le duo expérimental composé de Félix-Antoine Morin et Maxime Corbeil-Perron avait littéralement fait trembler les fondations du musée; c’était un moment d’une grande intensité. Jusqu’à tout récemment, c’était malheureusement le seul contact que j’avais eu la chance d’avoir avec Political Ritual. Ce bon souvenir est resté gravé dans ma mémoire, mais les deux musiciens n’avaient jamais recroisé mon chemin par la suite.

Ce temps est maintenant révolu puisque devant moi se trouve leur toute nouvelle offrande. Un magnifique vinyle éponyme proposant deux imposantes pièces de plus de vingt minutes. Forgés sur fond de deuil, d’abus et d’inquiétude, ces deux rituels nous promettent un voyage déstabilisant en territoire hostile. La marche à suivre est simple: montez le volume adéquatement, installez-vous confortablement et laissez les décibels vous percuter de plein fouet.

1. Cérémonie

Si les premières minutes de ce morceau ne vous écrasent pas dans votre siège, c’est parce que vous avez commis une première erreur. Le volume doit obligatoirement être monté d’un cran, car il vous faut entendre les notes siffler comme de violentes rafales de vent. Lorsque vous aurez le sentiment d’être égaré au beau milieu d’un tourbillon sonore, vous comprendrez que vous avez fait le bon choix. Ces bourrasques seront votre moyen de transport pour accéder à l’univers chaotique du duo montréalais. Vous comprendrez rapidement que cette improvisation raconte un récit déconcertant, c’est la trame sonore de quelque chose qui nous surpasse.

J’ai perçu Cérémonie comme une histoire où chaque instrument représente un personnage, tous plus tourmentés les uns que les autres. Ils m’apparaissaient brisés et éraillés, tout comme les outils de créations utilisés pour la confection de cette œuvre écrasante. Félix-Antoine et Maxime y ont déversé leurs tripes, il s’agit ici de l’une des musiques les plus inspirées que j’ai eu la chance de mettre sur ma platine. Chaque écoute vous replongera d’une manière différente dans cette troublante narration, le potentiel de réécoute est littéralement infini tellement ce qui se rend à notre cerveau est étoffé. C’est l’album de prédilection pour déconnecter du triste monde auquel nous sommes condamné·e·s.

2. Projection cathodique

Cette deuxième entité sonore se matérialise comme un long couloir dans lequel nous sommes forcé·e·s d’avancer. C’est une composition caverneuse qui nous ensorcelle avec une multitude de bruits d’ambiance accaparant le spectre auditif. Une fois bien submergé·e·s dans ce gouffre musical, nous réalisons qu’il sera impossible de faire marche arrière. La progression est tout simplement impressionnante, les couches se multiplient avec une délicatesse déstabilisante. Nous ne sommes définitivement plus en contrôle de notre corps et de notre esprit, ce morceau est désormais aux commandes.

Projection cathodique nous plonge entre la vie et la mort, à l’intérieur de ce fameux tunnel qui habite l’imaginaire des êtres humains depuis des lustres. Oscillant entre le trajet vers l’enfer et celui du paradis, la destination finale demeure incertaine. Je crois tout de même que quelque chose de positif ressort de cette tumultueuse création, une lumière jaillit néanmoins à travers la brume. Un album de cette envergure se savoure avec une totale dévotion, sans quoi vous ne serez pas en mesure de saisir l’ampleur du travail qui se dissimule derrière chacune des notes. Il représente une expérience musicale pratiquement inqualifiable, j’ai eu l’impression de faire de la méditation en ayant consommé des substances hallucinogènes. En espérant que vous arriverez aussi à laisser l’immense talent de ces deux musiciens vous faire décoller dans vos pensées les plus lointaines.

blogue@press-5772 press@5772
22 January 2018
By Réjean Beaucage in Voir (Québec), January 22, 2018


“C’est une musique dense, qui se développe par couches, en construisant des espaces gigantesques… 4/5”

Duo formé des électroacousticiens montréalais Félix-Antoine Morin et Maxime Corbeil-Perron, Political Ritual crée des ambiances dont il est peut-être préférable de faire l’expérience en concert, à moins d’avoir des voisins compréhensifs… C’est une musique dense, qui se développe par couches, en construisant des espaces gigantesques, et, comme le disent ses concepteurs: «La seule cause qui importe est celle de mettre le volume à fond». Évidemment, ils ne sont pas les premiers à faire cette recommandation, mais leur musique, toute en textures et large comme un paquebot, bénéficie que l’on porte attention à ce détail. Conçu dans une période «de deuil, d’abus de substances [et] d’inquiétudes géopolitiques», le résultat est assez noir, comme le vinyle qui le supporte.

blogue@press-5773 press@5773
7 January 2018
By Richard Allen in A Closer Listen, January 7, 2018


“One of the wildest albums of the new year comes from Montréal composer Jean Derome.”

One of the wildest albums of the new year comes from Montréal composer Jean Derome. Even a quick look at the back of the CD, and one knows one is in for a treat: 20 performers on instruments ranging from tuned kalimbas to trombones. The tuning is to 60 Hz, the standard tuning of North American electricity, and the album is exactly 60 minutes long (although billed as 59:59). As one might expect, currents abound. Derome is interested in all manner of electricity: “current, flow, power, voltage, resistance, circuit, motor, pulse and frequency.” We hope our readers will forgive the obvious statement: this album is electric.

The performers treat restraints as opportunities, typically improvising around a theme, wherever the conductor has placed their seats. A sweet cacophony builds to overload on Étagement des fréquences, implying that all of the performers are having a blast; the ensuing bleats of Aurores boréales are like those of a pleasant reveler on New Year’s Eve. And of course some of the instruments require electricity to work, notably the turntable and iPad, while the others rely on currents for amplification and recording.

The eight-note eruption of Tableau eventually leads to a restrained explosion of drums, skirting on the edge of accessibility, playing with emotions and expectations. There’s little use for the avant-garde if it’s just noise and meandering. This track serves as a wink to the audience, and is helpful in creating a sense that such moments will be doled out throughout the release. Nothing here will be a hit, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make an impact. The onomatopoeia of Vamp produces a similar effect, while the army of metronomes in Fréquences-métronomes makes it sound like a clock shoppe.

As the album progresses, it veers wildly from side to side like a bowling ball in a bumper lane. The composer draws wide lines, but there are lines, a loose focus that allows for creativity on an expanded playground. If one is tempted to play along, making noises with one’s mouth or tapping the objects in the living room, Derome would likely be pleased. We all have electricity running though us, enough to carry static shocks, fire synapses, and make balloons rubbed in the hair stick to walls. This album highlights our common connection, and celebrates the energy it produces.

blogue@press-5759 press@5759