The Electroacoustic Music Store

Artists Michel F Côté

A ubiquitous musician and composer, Michel F Côté was born in Montréal, the year the submarine USS Nautilus made history by travelling under the North Pole’s ice cap. His concerts and recordings have received praise locally and abroad. Since 1990, he has appeared on more than 60 albums. He is associated with the Ambiances Magnétiques label, on top of being the co-founder of the label &records. He his now running a brand new label, Sono Sordo. A drummer and percussionist with an idiosyncratic, almost anaphylactic style, Michel F Côté plays like no one else. He is a multi-instrumentalist blazing his own trail and using whatever he needs. We can find him backing up these acts: Mecha Fixes Clocks, Klaxon Gueule, Pink Saliva, Jane & the magic bananas, Quatuor minéraliste, and Tiari Kese — a duo with himself. He composes a great deal for theatre and dance projects (Robert Lepage, Wajdi Mouawad, Brigitte Haentjens, Marie Brassard, Martin Faucher, Sylvain Emard, José Navas, Louise Bédard, Benoît Lachambre and Ginette Laurin, among others). Indeed, he has over a hundred projects under his belt, making him a very prolific composer/designer. He has partnered up with Catherine Tardif as co-artistic directors for the dance company Et Marianne et Simon (6,3 évanouissements, 2014, Mobilier mental, 2016). He is also dreaming up schemes with choreographer Catherine Lavoie-Marcus (Schizes sur le sundae, 2013). Together, they collaborate on the art magazine esse.

[v-17]

Michel F Côté

Montréal (Québec), 1958

Residence: Montréal (Québec)

  • Composer
  • Performer (percussion)

Associated Groups

Selected Works

Main Releases

&records / ET 05 / 2008
Alien8 Recordings / ALIEN 50 / 2005

Appearances

Various artists
CEC-PeP / CEC 95CD / 1995

Complements

Various artists
OHM / Avatar / AVTR 050 / 2009
  • Not in catalogue
vex
OHM / Avatar / AVTR 009 / 1998
  • Not in catalogue

In the Press

Suoni per il Popolo: Outside Music Incoming

Mike Chamberlain, Hour, Thursday, June 3, 2010

Casa del Popolo is once again ground zero for unique Suoni Per Il Popolo music festival.

Drummer and composer Michel F Côté is the custodian of the & label, a small imprint-cum-art project that is launching new CDs by the group Mecha Fixes Clocks and alto violinist Jean René to kick off the 10th Suoni Per Il Popolo festival on June 6. Côté agrees that the story of outside music in Montréal can fairly be divided into the era before Mauro Pezzente and Kiva Stimac opened the Casa del Popolo in 2000 and the era since then. “Before that, there was no real venue for improv music or for all sorts of avant garde,” Côté explains, “and when the Casa started, it was real good news. You could just hang out, and it was always fantastic music. Nobody else in Montréal is doing what they do.”

With its eclectic booking policy, the Casa, and later La Sala Rossa, have nurtured audiences knowledgeable about all kinds of outside music, from free jazz and electronic music to avant rock, folk, spoken word, cabaret and multimedia performances. Every year in June, Pezzente and Stimac give themselves a gift by booking a special series of concerts. They might regard the Suoni as their own reward, but as has been the case since the Casa opened its doors, it is the Montréal audience who benefits. As usual, this year’s Suoni Per Il Popolo festival is very strong on free jazz, including the first-ever Canadian performance by the legendary Globe Unity Orchestra, an ensemble founded by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1965. Concerts of musicians within the orchestra — the quartets of Evan Parker and Henrik Walsdorff and the Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio — will bookend the GUO’s June 20 date at Sala Rossa. And in addition to performing, Suoni regular Ken Vandermark will present an open rehearsal/workshop with the other members of the Vandermark 5 on June 16, and pianist Matthew Shipp will give a workshop on the processes of improvisation on June 15. Other performances in this series include Vandermark’s Frame Quartet, the trio of Kidd Jordan, William Parker and Hamid Drake, and Dutch cornetist Eric Boeren’s quartet. There’s an impressive electronic series that includes appearances by the likes of Didi Bruckmayr, Radian, Christof Kurzmann and Emeralds, and the avant rock scene is represented by Xeno and Oaklander, Oneida, Hair Police, Carlos Giffoni and the shamanistic collective No Neck Blues Band. It’s a very exciting lineup that reflects the ethos of being smart, inventive, adventurous and community friendly.

Doing more with less, Pezzente and Stimac are an example that all music presenters could emulate.

It’s a very exciting lineup that reflects the ethos of being smart, inventive, adventurous and community friendly.

Du bruit au Mois Multi [et quelques autres considérations sur le son]

Nathalie Bachand, Inter, art actuel, no. 103, Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Il faut nécessairement souligner la pertinence des artistes qu’Érick d’Orion, commissaire pour l’occasion, a finement sélectionnés.

L’Envers and Gordon Allen

Adam Kinner, The Gazette, Friday, January 30, 2009

Walking into L’Envers is like entering a scene from the ’70s East Village. If Patti Smith were on the old couch in the corner talking to the motley assortment of Montréal improvisers, artists, gallerists and dancers typical of a L’Envers audience I wouldn’t bat an eye. This is the newest music venue in the Mile-End and everything from the large photos on the wall—by the very talented Marie-Ève Dompierre — to the warehouse-style windows, the turn-of-the-century wooden support beams, and the homemade feel of the space suggests that this is a space run by artists for artists and audiences alike.

The mastermind behind the scenes is Gordon Allen. An incredible trumpet player and improviser, a talented organizer, a quick-witted schmoozer, an hilarious MC and a big-hearted friend of at least half of the musicians in Montréal, Allen is just what Montréal needs to get its improvised music scene off and running. He’ll emerge from the dense crowd, clad in a porkpie hat and cuffed shirt, beaming at how well the evening is going, how well the musicians are playing, and how many great people have showed up.

Along with three other like-minded musicians, he’s responsible for this new hotspot. Together they’ve worked to create a space committed to presenting music, dance, and performance — “anything that involves improvisation” — that would otherwise have trouble being shown. Their mandate is to offer the excellent musicians of Montréal a comfortable place to play, and to build an audience that comes curious, listens carefully, and leaves satisfied.

But Allen is a far busier man than his carefree, joyous demeanor might suggest. He has been organizing the improvised music community since he arrived in Montréal from Guelph in 2005. The monthly series at Casa Del Popolo “Improvising Montréal” came under his control in 2006; and Mardi Spaghetti, a weekly series he curates along with three other improvisers at Cagibi, is going to celebrate its first anniversary in March.

On Saturday, January 17th, L’Envers opened its new year of programming with a celebration of Art’s Birthday. (It took a couple of weeks for the members of their mailing list to realize that they weren’t talking about a guy named Arthur, but rather celebrating the birth of Art, which Robert Filliou famously starting celebrating in 1963. Check this out.) CKUT was there with their live broadcasting gear. Six bands were slated to play. There was a birthday cake competition and West-Coast artist Glenn Lewis re-enacted the birth of Art.

I arrived just as Gordon took the stage with his trio Pink Saliva, with drummer Michel F Côté and bassist Alexandre St-Onge. Their layered, richly textured mix of acoustic improvisation and electronics sent a hush over the hundred or more gathered. Many took a seat on the floor and listened to the flow of expressive sounds, ranging from beautiful trumpet melody to the harsh but effective noise-electronics of Côté and St-Onge.

Even the loud students next to me stopped talking and I saw their facial expressions change to concentrated curiosity as they craned their necks to see how those three musicians were making such otherworldly sounds.

“When audiences are more attentive,” Gordon had told me earlier in the week, “the musicians have to scrutinize their own work more. Consequently we’re pushed harder to create, and the music advances. I’ve seen that here, and it’s an incredible thing to be a part of. Worth all the work we’ve put into it.”

Walking into L’Envers is like entering a scene from the ‘70s East Village. If Patti Smith were on the old couch in the corner talking to the motley assortment of Montréal improvisers, artists, gallerists and dancers typical of a L’Envers audience I wouldn’t bat an eye.

Concert Review

Isnor B Gordon, Left Hip Magazine, Friday, December 12, 2008

Fred Frith played in Montréal recently along with some very talented local free improv players. I was fortunate enough to catch the show…

Legendary avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith dropped by Montréal’s Cabaret Juste Pour Rire the other night for a duo show with drummer Danielle Palardy Roger, and an opening set by two incredible percussionists - Michel F Côté and Isaiah Ceccarelli.

Côté and Ceccarelli started things off with nothing but drums. Côté was behind a standard kit extended with lots of toys and two mics rigged up two a pair of Pignose amps. Ceccarelli just had a bass drum lying on a chair along with, again, lots of toys. The pieces were all very brief which was really nice, and despite the fact that drums alone might seem limited, each piece was very different from those that came before – sound loud and frenetic, others quiet, one actually managed to elicit quite a bit of laughter from the audience, which I’m hoping was a good thing. Côté used the mics as drum sticks to great effect - creating all kinds of unusual sounds of tension and release, friction, surprisingly dynamic feedback that almost made one think of the expressiveness of the Theremin, and there were moments of all out, distorted, banging-on-a-drum fun. The feedbacking drums were paired up really well with Ceccarelli’s bowed playing. A great set.

Fred Frith and Danielle Palardy Roger were up second and once they began playing, they did not stop until their set was finished — a really long and well laid-out musical journey with lots of highlights and unexpected twists and turns. Fred pulled out every trick in the prepared guitar book - from the old twanging drum stick between the strings to an array of effects and looping pedals and beyond. But with his mastery of music and his instrument it never felt like he was depending on the gimmicks, more using them to great effect to build up a complex, multilayered soundscape and every-evolving composition. He was well matched up with Danielle Palardy Roger, who also had all of the extended techniques and managed to make great music with them. They both seemed to be following their own paths the whole way not interacting too much like some free improv players do, creating a sort of back and forth conversation type of sound, but their individual paths meshed perfectly well together, so maybe they were both just following the music more than their own instrumental egos. Adding an extra oomph to the coolness of the show was when first Fred Frith let loose a barrage of percussive and wailing tribal vocals, followed a little later on by vocal sounds along similar lines from Danielle Palardy Roger. Took it to another level beyond the often staid confines of stylized free improv into something more about music in a broader and more sophisticated sense.

An awesome concert, and I think it was part of a recording project so it may see the light of day on CD in the not too distant future…

An awesome concert…

Live Reviews: Suoni per il Popolo

Lawrence Joseph, Signal to Noise, no. 51, Monday, September 1, 2008

The eighth annual Suoni per il Popolo spanned a month and covered a huge range of musical genres. Over 50 concerts took place in two venues located across the street from each other in Montréal’s artist-filled Mile End neighborhood. It gave fans of free jazz, experimental rock, avant folk, contemporary classical, electronic, and improvised musics plenty to get excited about. Add a workshop with the Sun Ra Arkestra, street performance art, DJ sets and an outdoor day of music and children’s activities, and you have an unbeatably eclectic event. […]

The festival kicked off with two shows that exemplified what it does best. The more intimate Casa del Popolo was the venue for a free jazz blowout with saxophonist Glen Hall, bassist Dominic Duval, and drummer William Hooker, […] Hall keeps a relatively low profile, despite having studied with Ligeti and Kagel and played with the likes of Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Giuffre and John Scofield. The compositions in the first set paid tribute to some of his influences, while the second set shifted to freely improvised territory, with Montréal’s young trumpet luminary Gordon Allen sitting in to add blistering sound blasts and overblowing to the mix. At times this resembled the more noise-based music Hooker has made with Thurston Moore. […]

Allen was a fixture at the festival, playing in seven shows during the month, including guitarist Rainer Wiens’ version of Riley’s In C.

Another evening featured the debut of All Up In There, a trio of Allen, Michel F Côté on percussion, and Frank Martel on Theremin. Martel often played the theremin as if it were a stand-up bass, while Côté, when not playing kit, obtained a surprising variety of sounds from winging two mics around Pignose amps. The overall effect was more like a group of virtuosic Martians than a standard jazz trio. […]

Christof Migone’s performance piece Hit Parade took place outside on a busy Saint-Laurent Boulevard, taking over the sidewalk and one lane of traffic. Eleven people lay face down on the pavement, each pounding a microphone into the ground exactly one thousand times, at varying speeds. The sound of a giant asynchronous metronome prompted ironic thoughts in this listener about the usual meaning of the phrase “hit music,” and about pounding the pavement as a metaphor for life. […]

The Quatuor Bozzini, a string quartet dedicated to contemporary music, performed a selection of pieces by experienced improviser/composers. Malcolm Goldstein’s four-part structured improvisation A New Song of Many Faces for in These Times (2002) was by turns gentle and harsh, agitated and introspective, as melodic and rhythmic fragments were passed from one member of the quartet to another. Goldstein himself performed Hardscrabble Songs, a 13-minute solo piece for voice and violin. Jean Derome and Joane Hétu’s Le mensonge et l’identité (“Lies and Identity”) is an hour-long tour de force with a strong socio-political component. The Bozzinis’ spoken contributions (both live and on prerecorded tape) ranged from pithy quotes from philosophers and politicians to personal anecdotes. The music deliberately unraveled into chaos, the players moving music stands and chairs about the room in response to unsynchronized metronomes, tipping over stands as the scores on them were completed. […]

Live Reviews: Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville

Mike Chamberlain, Signal to Noise, no. 51, Monday, September 1, 2008

While the 2008 edition marked the 25th anniversary of the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville, and while the festival grid looked, in some respects, like a tribute to certain mainstays of the festival that’s not quite the way that Victo’s director, Michel Levasseur, set out to put the milestone program together. The 25th anniversary nonetheless has a resonance for many people, Levasseur found. “You can’t hide the reality of this history,” he said in an interview before the festival. “Some people have 25 years of marriage. Some people think of where they were 25 years ago. Some of our audience weren’t even born then. […]”

And there was, in fact, a certain symmetry to the lineup, with Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms + 7 and John Zorn’s project The Dreamers opening the festival at 8 and 10 pm respectively. Both Derome and an expanded lineup of Les Dangereux Zhoms and Zorn’s Dreamers delivered performances that demonstrated that their leaders were still making interesting, relevant music. Les Dangereux Zhoms did two pieces. The first, Traquen’Art, was first performed late last year in homage to the Montréal production company of the same name, while the second, Plateforme, was a premiere, written in tribute Levasseur’s creation and life work. With the lineup expanded to include the voice of Joane Hétu, the reeds of Lori Freedman, and the turntable of Martin Tétreault, among others, the two compositions encompassed a wide palette that drew together almost everything Derome has done over the past thirty years. Ranging from delicate interplay between voice, violin and viola to full-on collective improvisation with screeching guitar and muted trombone pyrotechnics, the music exploded generic considerations in the best Victo tradition. […]

A lot of festival-goers skip the midnight shows, but this year’s edition featured two of the best I have seen in a decade of attending the festival, the Friendly Rich Show on Thursday and Michel F Côté’s post-rock soul sextet (juste) Claudette on Sunday. […] While the collective intrigue of the three Thursday concerts were hard to match, there was much to savor over the weekend. Among these […] the premiere performance by the trio of René Lussier, Martin Tétreault and Otomo Yoshihide, whose nakedly human endeavors to improvise as a trio had to overcome their long histories of playing with one another in duos, the results demonstrating both the promise and the pitfalls of improvised music.

Barnyard Drama (Suoni / L’Off Fest.)

David Ryshpan, Panpot, Thursday, July 3, 2008

… A third Quartetski member, Gordon Allen, followed with his new trio, All Up In There, featuring percussionist Michel F Côté and theremin player Frank Martel. Allen started with a very breathy, noisy sound, leaving lots of space in his line. Côté began with a towel draped over his kit, and even without it he retained a very dry sound, with small crisp cymbals. Martel successfully avoided the sci-fi connotations of the theremin, adding a unique colour to the set, manipulating it to truly engage with Allen. Côté had two condenser mics that he ran through two Pignose amps. When he used them as sticks to amplify his kit, he gave the drums a fuzzy, grungy sound that would not have been out of place on a Tom Waits record. At other times he pointed the mics at each other or at the amps, manipulating the pitch and volume of the feedback almost like a second theremin. In the more aggressive moments, Côté played a somewhat tribal rock beat while Allen elicited noise and feedback sounds out of his trumpet and Martel anchored everything with a deep, ominous theremin bassline. The physical gestures Côté and Martel used to improvise were nearly as important as the sound itself…

FIMAV (May 15-19)

Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz New York, no. 75, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Guitars reigned supreme at this year’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville. The saxophones were there to be sure; Jean Derome, Joe McPhee and Roscoe Mitchell are not ones to sneeze at. But the 25th edition of FIMAV centered on the six-string, with Raymond Boni, Tim Brady, Nick Didkovsky, Fred Frith, René Lussier, Joe Morris, Marc Ribot and Elliott Sharp all on the bill. (…)

Sets by the members of the Ambiances Magnétiques collective from Montréal (100 miles southwest of Victoriaville) are always a much anticipated part of the week and this year made for three strong sets: Jean Derome’s Les Dangereux Zhoms revived as a sextet; Michel F Côté’s excellent organ lounge (juste) Claudette and a trio of René Lussier, Martin Tétrault and Otomo Yoshihide. The latter was an especially exciting outburst of two turntables and two guitars ( Yoshihide manning one of each), running from energy to abstraction. Yoshihide was originally set to play just turntables, but arrived with guitar in hand. Perhaps he sensed something about the frenzy of FIMAV 2008.

(Juste) Claudette (FIMAV)

Mathieu Bélanger, Panpot, Sunday, May 18, 2008

(Juste) Claudette is Michel F Côté latest project. Its origins go back to an evening of February 2006 when Jesse Levine, Bernard Falaise, the aforementioned Alexandre St-Onge and Côté himself happen to be together in a studio and recorded some improvisations. This music would eventually become the group’s eponymous CD, released last fall on Ambiances Magnétiques.

Michel F Côté likes each of his projects to have a well-defined and distinct identity. A quick listen to the music of Mecha Fixes Clocks (with or without its ‘s’), Flat Fourgonnette or Pink Saliva – a yet-unrecorded trio with trumpeter Gordon Allen and bassist Alexandre St-Onge – should be enough to convince anyone of this claim. (Juste) Claudette is no exception to this fundamental preoccupation. Indeed, Claudette (for the intimates) is all about groove. Yes, groove as in looped patterns, but also as in tap your foot and bob your head.

(Juste) Claudette – let’s stick to the official name to dissipate any impression of promiscuity – performed its second ever concert as part of the 25th Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville. Actually, it is worth emphasizing that it took place on Sunday at midnight at the CEGEP de Victoriaville, one of the three venues used by the festival, as anyone who has visited the small Bois-Francs town would know.

While (Juste) Claudette dedicates itself to groove and rhythm, there was plenty to maintain interest and loads for the brain to chew on (then process). First, drummer Alexander MacSween was added to the line-up, thus turning (Juste) Claudette into a sextet as Côté had already recruited trumpeter Gordon Allen for the group’s live debut, back in October 2007. The addition of a second drummer allowed for some fascinating rhythmic events to occur. In one piece, Côté and MacSween played exactly the same beat, except that MacSween’s hi-hat notes were twice as fast as Côté’s. In others, MacSween would play a basic pattern while Côté would play between the beats in a looser manner or double the beat on his snare.

Second, (Juste) Claudette made it clear that rhythm and groove is not just a drums and bass thing. Sure, in some pieces, the drums and the bass would indeed start a rhythmic pattern and stick to it while the others instruments build upon it. However, in others, the basic rhythmic impetus would come from another instrument such as Falaise’s syncopated strumming.

As mentioned above, this concert took place on Sunday evening, thus near the end of the 2008 FIMAV. On the one hand, the somewhat festive and groovy aspects of (Juste) Claudette were a welcome relief at this point. Remember, this was the 20th concert festival-goers had witnessed in a three and a half day period, including some inevitably dry and less-successful ones.

On the other hand, in past years, the volume of the midnight concerts has often been a problem in that the loudness became an obstacle to a full appreciation of the music. Unfortunately, (Juste) Claudette was no exception. To put it bluntly, the volume was deafening. It makes no doubt that such a group can benefit from some amplification, but in this case, it actually had a negative impact. First, it simply was unbearable without earplugs. Second, some instruments simply did not sound well, the most obvious example being Côté’s carefully crafted toms which suddenly sounded like an amplified beam.

This said, on a strictly musical level, (Juste) Claudette definitely turned out to be one of the most enjoyable concert of the 25th Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville.

(Juste) Claudette definitely turned out to be one of the most enjoyable concert of the 25th Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville.

Review

Ken Waxman, UnAmerican Activities, no. 75, Monday, December 19, 2005

Québécois have been alternately fascinated and repulsed by the United States — and by extension American music — from the time the French-speaking Canadian province began to assert its distinct identity in the early 1960s. Obvious exceptions like Céline Dion notwithstanding, names and language prevent most Québécois artists from affecting a similar transference to that taken by English Canadians, whose shared language with the masses of English speakers south of the border manifests itself in discomfort with many aspects of American values and culture at the same time as proximity allows them to pass as ersatz Americans. Yet, as anyone who has ever seen Québec situation comedies or pop performers can attest, the lure of the U.S. remains in the independence-minded province.

Percussionist Michel F Côté’s Flat Fourgonnette (Ambiances Magnétiques) is simultaneously a celebration of and a satire on Yankee musical imperialism. A member since 1988 of the Montréal-based Ambiances Magnétiques collective, Côté and the others call their sounds musique actuelle — music of today — and mulch together rock, folk, contemporary classical, jazz, and other influences. Côté, however, is involved with many dramatic, dance, and film projects, to the extent that Flat Fourgonnette’s 19 tracks are often as theatrical as they are musical, with the 20 featured musicians taking on many actorly roles.

A member of ensembles including the jazz-rock trio Klaxon Gueule, the percussionist provides his interpretation of American music by going right to its source: early folk, country, and pop music. Not only does he mix in excerpts from recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, Hank Williams, and Clarence Ashley, to name three, but many of the tunes have a purported country & western background. That isn’t too far-fetched since cowboy hat, bolo tie, and boot-wearing country singers have long been as much a part of rural French-Canadian spectacles as they are in performances elsewhere in North America.

The particular talent of Côté, who plays drums, percussion, harmonica, organ, and sings here, is to produce his own songs written in an idiom similar to the actualités so that there’s no fissure. Accordion, steel guitars, and fiddles, shouted “yee-haws”, pinched-noise harmonies and — as Côté puts it — “poor whistling” are therefore put to use alongside the refined and reliable improvisations of folks like trombonist Tom Walsh and reedist Jean Derome. All in all, the treatment of the material is more like the gentle spoofs of guitarist Eugene Chadbourne than the savage parodies of Frank Zappa.

Among the stand-out tracks are My Girl (“my gal’s a corker/ she’s a New Yorker”) sung in near moribund dead-pan fashion in English by AnneBruce Falconer, whose voice is balanced on top of the quivering soundscape of Bernard Falaise and Claude Fradette’s weeping electric guitars; and Sitting Bull, a 1940s-style faux C&W instrumental featuring speedy fills from Falaise and Frédéric Boudreault on electric bass with Côté contributing vocal gurgling, drum beats, and the rhythmic shaking of a vitamin bottle.

Also featured are sound manipulations such as House Carpenter and Parti longtemps. The latter uses a false stereo echo chamber to have Hank Williams distantly singing one of his more lachrymose ballads, accompanied by what Côté calls “cheap polyrhytme” from the percussionist plus simple guitar licks and metallic slashes from Frank Martel’s theremin. The former mixes stinging rock guitar distortion, backbeat drumming, organ crescendos, and kazoo-like twittering into a four-chord punk rock-like outing, only to have the tune fade into a recording of old timey banjoist Clarence Ashley picking the same rhythm acoustically.

Since Côté describes the CD as being poetic like “an old story-telling buffalo”, whose imprecise recollections include cowboys and horses, a saloon and its pretty manageress, a love story, “and even an Indian or two”, it’s not unfair to note that when his compositions are serious, they take on a certain Old World romantic flavor. Yeux de Lucie, for example, features clarinetist Jean-Denis Levasseur, trumpeter Nemo Venba, trombonist Walsh — a committed jazzer as well as a musique actuelle participant — guitarist Bernard Poirier, and Lou Babin on accordion in a brassy lilt, midway between a fanfare and a tarantella.

Meanwhile Incendies, which completes the program, becomes a Beaux Epoch café waltz performed by Falaise, overdubbed on both electric bass and guitar, Côté on glockenspiel and percussion, and Luzio Altobelli on accordion. Only the squealing split tone from the alto and baritone saxophones of Derome — another long time Ambiances Magnétiques participant, who also plays jazz—hints that this is anything more than easy-listening fluff.

If it sounds middle of the road, at least this tune is musically sophisticated, high-class fluff, just as many of the other compositions transcend satiric origin to reveal the sensitivity at their cores. Flat Fourgonnette, Côté’s “album of American music” shows that the Québécois, like the Dutch and the Italians — and unlike Americans — can amalgamate energy, passion, caricature, and cacophony into a sonic package. Without bitterness or vulgarity, the outcome is a product that entertains at the same time it stretches sound barriers.

Since many American improvised music fans are familiar with the distinctive music coming form the Netherlands and Italy, a few more should venture a few miles north of the US’s Eastern border and discover the creations of Côté and his colleagues in musique actuelle.

Côté… can amalgamate energy, passion, caricature, and cacophony into a sonic package. Without bitterness or vulgarity, the outcome is a product that entertains at the same time it stretches sound barriers.

Entre musique et bruit

David Cantin, Le Devoir, Saturday, November 20, 2004
On peut difficilement circonscrire un musicien aussi prolifique que Michel F Côté.

Michel F Côté. 63 apparizioni nel mondo dell’elettronica

Michele Coralli, Altremusiche, Monday, November 1, 2004

altremusiche: La & records, la vostra neonata etichetta canadese, esce con due lavori, entrambi molto ben curati ed entrambi ispirati a una costruzione del suono basata sulla ciclicità di strutture rumoristiche. In questi ultimi anni il rumore sembra definitivamente esploso in gran parte delle produzioni artistiche contemporanee. Quanto ha influito secondo te l’elettronica nel determinare un’estetica del continuum sonoro/rumoristico?

Côté: Mi sembra che, in quest’ottica, la posizione di John Cage (e di qualcun’altro) sia centrale. Però, più che l’elettronica (in termini d’estetica musicale), penso che sia stata la tecnologia digitale ad aver contribuito all’integrazione definitiva del rumore nello spazio sonoro. Il medium stesso è il centro di questa rivoluzione musicale: “the medium is the message” diceva giustamente Marshall McLuhan. L’inizio degli anni ‘90 potrebbe essere il punto di partenza più probabile: il digitale - attraverso i cd, i primi laptop, studi portatili e altri utensili musicali non analogici - diventa rapidamente uno strumento audio accessibile e indispensabile. Questa innovazione tecnologica chiude definitivamente l’era analogica. L’elettronica, grazie alle sue risorse, diventa quindi un’estetica influente. Anzi, il digitale ci ha liberato da quell’ossessione tipicamente analogica nei confronti del rumore (cioè il rumore di fondo, il soffio, tutto quel rumore considerato come parassitario); il rumore non è più considerato come un tabù, non è più odiato, diventa potenzialmente estetico. I “room tones” e altri “buzz” elettrici assumono uno statuto di nobiltà, del tutto inaspettatamente, d’altra parte. Anche il “glitch”, quest’altro “errore sonoro involontario”, ha approfittato di questa liberazione digitale. La vecchia gerarchia dei suoni considerati come musicali, rispetto a quelli “non musicali”, è stata abolita. Cage trionfa.

altremusiche: Non possiamo non considerare la vostra vicinanza estetica, ma anche fisica, con Ambiances Magnétiques. La & records risponde a un’esigenza più radicale rispetto quell’esperienza che sembra ampliare il campo a musiche di diversa estrazione? Ci parli della tua esperienza con AM?

Côté: Non direi che ci sia un’esigenza radicalizzatrice dietro la creazione dell’etichetta. Essenzialmente si tratta d’un progetto artistico iniziato da Fabrizio Gilardino e me stesso. Un desiderio comune d’inventarci, con molta modestia, un nuovo spazio di creazione e diffusione. “Just what the world needs… Another record company”, scriveva Frank Zappa nel 1969, quando mise in piedi Bizarre Productions. Da qualche anno a questa parte il pianeta è infestato dal proliferare di nuove, piccole etichette che vedono la luce ogni giorno, senza sosta, in modo quasi esponenziale. Ciò mi piace… Mi sembra una proliferazione potenzialmente poetica. &records è uno spazio di ricerca, e la ricerca, la sua stessa ragion d’essere… Posso immaginarmi facilmente &records nella stessa genealogia familiare di Ambiances Magnétiques. Del resto, Fabrizio e io stesso, ne siamo ancora e sempre strettamente associati: Fabrizio continua a collaborare con loro come direttore artistico e grafico e io vi faccio ancora uscire dei dischi, com’è il caso per uno dei miei prossimi progetti, che ha per titolo Flat Fourgonnette (molto vagamente, musica country alla mescalina). Sono ancora, e lo sarò sempre, un membro del collettivo di Ambiances Magnétiques. Quest’etichetta è un ottimo esempio di “successo parallelo” e poi, senza Ambiances Magnétiques, qualche anno fa, probabilmente non sarei mai riuscito a pubblicare alcunché.

altremusiche: Nella musica elettronica attuale, ma forse non solo in quella, uno dei principi plasmanti forse più determinanti è il concetto di spazio, sia reale che mentale. Esiste secondo te una musica in se stessa, libera dall’idea o dalla suggestione che può generare?

Côté: Una musica che esistesse solo per se stessa dovrebbe comporsi in modo autonomo, senza intervento umano, e sarebbe al tempo stesso il suo solo fruitore e referente. Se una tal musica esistesse non potremmo mai ascoltarla. Peggio per noi. Il melomane e il critico inevitabilmente generano un’interpretazione. Le idee che s’associano abitualmente a una musica in particolare sono in genere proposte dall’ascoltatore, non dal compositore. La musica è, dal punto di vista semantico, piuttosto relativa, debole nei suoi enunciati, meno precisa del linguaggio visuale o delle parole stesse, ma resta comunque strettamente legata alle idee e suggestioni del compositore come alle diverse interpretazioni dell’ascoltatore. Per quanto riguarda il concetto di spazio, ti dirò che, essenzialmente, la musica è un’arte del tempo, ciò che gli uomini hanno inventato di meglio per contrastare l’ineluttabilità del tempo che trascorre. E tutto ciò funziona piuttosto bene: quest’arte infonde elasticità al tempo che passa. Nella musica, le questioni di spazializzazione sono sempre rimaste secondarie. Forse, grazie all’inarrestabile ottimizzazione delle tecniche di riproduzione sonora, le preoccupazioni legate alla spazializzazione, al concetto di spazio sonoro, aumenteranno. Questa non è che l’alba…

altremusiche: Quanto influisce l’idea dello spazio sonoro nella tua musica? Sia quello in cui la tua musica vivrà, sia quello che la tua musica sarà in grado di evocare…

Côté: Non ho alcun controllo su ciò che la mia musica potrebbe evocare. Ed è un’idea che mi piace molto. Sesso stellare? Pensieri immensamente stupidi? Chi lo sa? In quale spazio sonoro la mia musica vivrà? Spero che si tratti d’uno spazio frequentato da spiriti radicali liberi… Lo spazio sonoro si rifà a una logica di profondità e di campi: vicino, lontano, che ruolo può giocare il silenzio. E poi non si devono dimenticare le dinamiche d’ampiezza sonora: le nozioni di spazio ne sono dipendenti. L’ascolto attivo, insomma.

altremusiche: Il tuo lavoro 63 apparitions è stato composto per una coreografia, quindi si tratta di una musica funzionale in qualche modo. Quanto cambia il tuo modo di lavorare in caso come questo?

Côté: Tutta la musica è, a priori, funzionale. Assolutamente. La musica è un’arte funzionale: contribuisce al benessere dell’anima, funzione necessaria esercitata da almeno 60000 anni. L’arte per l’arte è una strana utopia. Però una musica composta per una coreografia fa parte del nostro quotidiano. Musica e danza sono due forme d’arte strettamente associate: la danza, spaziale, si nutre di musica; la musica, temporale, si libera a contatto della danza. Non conosco musicisti che non sorridano quando vedono gente ballare sulla loro musica e mi sembra una funzione assai nobile, quella di comporre per uno spazio coreografico. Comporre per una coreografia è naturalmente diverso che comporre per un matrimonio, una celebrazione militare o un corteo funebre. E’ decisamente più gaio… Ti dirò che l’interazione interdisciplinare mi pare molto stimolante, basta citare alcuni nomi, John Cage / Merce Cunningham, Tom Waits / Robert Wilson, Igor Stravinskij / Vaslav Nijinski, Nino Rota / Federico Fellini, Morton Feldman / Samuel Beckett… Cambia, il mio modo di lavorare in un caso come questo? Il mio lavoro di composizione cambia sempre e comunque…

altremusiche: Nel disco vengono citati due autori come Cage e Satie, che sono sempre stati legati a qualcosa di esterno alla musica, ma così strettamente correlato alla loro musica. Perché loro due?

Côté: Semplicemente perché mi sono essenziali. Al tempo stesso esteriormente e strettamente connessi…

Michel F Côté

David Turgeon, actuellecd.com, Sunday, June 29, 2003

As we begin this series of articles on various catalogue-related themes, why not start with the hardest artist to pin down from the Ambiances Magnétiques collective: prolific and eclectic drummer Michel F Côté.

A late arrival to the Ambiances Magnétiques roster (joining in 1988), Côté readily put himself on the fringe of various geometrically variable groups. He could be heard for the first time in the debut Bruire album, Le barman a tort de sourire, a surprise box with no less than 14 guest musicians. Bruire is Côté’s very poetic project-group, in which he plays with the language of avant-garde, song and ambient music. This album launched a trilogy which continued in an increasingly mature vein with Les Fleurs de Léo, to end with the unforgettable L’âme de l’objet. This travelling in three steps has given us the chance to hear collaborators such as Geneviève Letarte, Jerry Snell, René Lussier, Ikue Mori, Claude St-Jean and Jean Derome, all of whom helped to feed our drummer’s fertile imagination.

More than six years passed before a new Bruire project could be heard, this one a very different beast: Chants rupestres, an improv quatuor with Jean Derome, Normand Guilbeault and Martin Tétreault. In fact, during these six years, Côté had been working on other projects which were increasingly more… deconstructed. The first sequels of this could be seen in a collaboration with Diane Labrosse, a slightly obscure CD purposely entitled Duo déconstructiviste. And if the first (double) album from his new project Klaxon Gueule, Bavards, was to sport a fairly recognisable “rock” energy, this project would soon see Côté at his most abstract.

The least we can say is that the release of Muets, a shiny minimalist jewel completely at odds with Bavards, would be a surprise to most listeners. One thing was for sure though, this new CD, released in 1999, was certainly more in phase with its era than the Duo déconstructiviste which was, in retrospect, perhaps too much in advance on its time. But this change was also due to the aesthetic evolution of doublebassist Alexandre St-Onge who, from a relatively “classical” playing, was to suddenly turn to a rather more conceptual approach towards his instrument. Côté and guitarist Bernard Falaise were thrilled to follow their bandmate in this new direction. Their latest album, Grain (recorded with Sam Shalabi and Christof Migone), confirmed this tendancy while pushing it even further into sophistication, making this work one of Côté’s most accomplished of his discography.

But the drummer did not stop there and reappeared where no one was expecting him. Thus, with Éric Bernier and Guy Trifiro, he created a new group, Bob, whose new disc, Unstable Friends, just came out. Under some fairly deviant and attractive cover artwork, a return to the bizarre “pop” music from Bruire’s beginnings is taking shape! We also heard through the grapevine that a new project called Mecca Fixes Clock (in which we can recognise the composer’s initials!) which could be described as orchestral ambient. Is Côté returning to his first loves?

If it isn’t so easy to give an overview of Michel F Côté as a musician, then that might be because his work goes beyond just music. In fact, one can often hear our protagonist at the theatre and in performance art, with such creators as Robert Lepage and Catherine Tardif. This aspect of his work finds its echo on Compil zouave, so far the only disc released under the composer’s name. We should also mention Côté’s previous involvement as a radioshow host at Radio-Canada amongst others, and his writing for contemporary arts magazine Esse.

Michel F Côté may best be seen as a kind of barometer of Ambiances Magnétiques’ creative activity throughout the years: from the song-form experiments of the 1980s through the peculiar lyrical impro-composition which was the signature sound of the AM catalogue in the 1990s, to continue with a more extreme form of improvisation, based on the physical existence of the instrument.

Critique

Éric Boulé, Musicworks, no. 65, Tuesday, May 1, 2001

De toutes ces parutions j’avoue avoir été particulièrement séduit par celle du collectif Bruire. Après Le Barman a tort de sourire et Les fleurs de Léo, voici L’âme de l’objet. À l’exception de Michel F Côté qui en est le principal animateur, Bruire est une formation au visage changeant. Sur ce dernier-né on retrouve toujours Côté aux percussions qui, cette fois, s’est entouré de Serge Boisvert au chant et à la trompette, de Jean Derome aux instruments à vent, de Claude Fradette à la guitare et à la basse et de Martin Tétreault aux tourne-disques. Cette heureuse réunion a donc tout ce qu’il faut pour surprendre. Les percussions de Côté offrent des sonorités riches et sont employées de subtile façon. Messieurs Boisvert et Derome sont ici les auteurs de mélodies et de ritournelles des plus joyeuses. La basse et la guitare de Claude Fradette supportent d’intéressante manière cet ensemble devenant encore plus fou lors des interventions insoupçonnées d’un Martin Tétreault dont on savoure toujours l’inventivité. Le travail de Bruire s’inscrit à mon sens dans une tradition d’ensemble désireuse de mettre à l’avant-scène ce travail d’écoute et de dialogue poussant la musique vers un devenir se définissant dans l’acte même de l’exécution (peut témoigner de tout ceci la première plage du disque intitulée Les deux mégots). Résultat: des envolées rythmiques se dessinant comme des courses folles vers on ne sait où, des embarquées très prenantes sur fond de folklore (Prières), ambiances chaudes et ce je-ne-sais-quoi donnant à cette musique un air de fête. Le jeu des musiciens est tout simplement efficace, plein de ces surprises et de ces instants fous laissant apprécier toutes sortes d’agencements sonores d’un très grand intérêt. À noter également la beauté de certaines mélodies rappelant le monde du cirque (Gelsomina). Aussi, I’imaginaire propre au jeu émanant de la musique de Bruire reste tout de même d’une proximité étonnante avec le travail des Residents. À se procurer absolument lorsque vient le moment de rompre un tant soit peu avec les états d’âme trop objectifs. Animisme médicamenté que ce petit disque.

À se procurer absolument…

More Texts

Downtown Music Gallery, All-Music Guide

Blog

  • The new record label &records, managed by Fabrizio Gilardino and Michel F Côté, announces two music events to be held in Montréal. Firstly, on February 10, 2005 at Casa del Popolo, a concert will feature musics by the Bernard Falai…

    Thursday, February 3, 2005 / In Concert
  • Don’t miss this excellent quartet of improvisers at Casa del Popolo (Montréal) January 30, 2003. With musicians Martin Tétreault (turntables), i8u (electronics), Michel F Côté (drums, electronics) and Magali Babin (guitar pick-up and small…

    Tuesday, January 14, 2003 / In Concert
  • During the “Mois Multi” events, musician Michel F Côté and choregrapher Catherine Tardif presents “Soi-même/Priser à deux,” a minimalist duo that delicately blurs the frontier between music and body. The evening also proposes a sonic instal…

    Tuesday, January 29, 2002 / In Concert