The Electroacoustic Music Store

Artists morceaux_de_machines

The end of the Napalm Jazz radio show on CKIA, in 2000 (which also led to a long hiatus for the same-named group) hasn’t discouraged the members of the group, who continued and multiplied their collaborations, internally and with increasingly more likeminded musicians. But the infernal duo of A_dontigny and Érick d’Orion, this hard pit always being broken up for the sake of sublime sonic pleasure, is still around: it is now known as morceaux_de_machines.

If there is hardly a radio in sight in their toolbox, one can be sure that A_dontigny and d’Orion have kept intact the immediate and uncompromising side of their approach from the first years. A highly skilled pair of improvisers, they know how to drive the consenting listener on a sonic adventure which will leave them with their mouth gaping. But if this dynamism and this tension seem almost theatrical to us, it’s a sort of théâtre de la cruauté we’re really talking about, impermeable to the false sentimentality of harmony, ferociously deconstructive of deifying systems such as Bach’s.

Is it just noise? No, there is much more than just noise in these exuberant, life-affirming soundtracks. Just as there is more to the loudness of their composition than a superficial affront to musics which are too easy to like, or too modest. If our machinist acrobats make such a ruckus, it’s because they are acutely conscious of the risk their acrobatics entail. That said and done, we are left with a music that is lively, highly personal and full of depth.

morceaux_de_machines

Québec

  • Composer
  • Performer

Group Members

On the Web

morceaux_de_machines, A_dontigny, Érick d’Orion, photo: James Schidlowsky, Thursday, November 25, 2004

Main Releases

Appearances

Various artists
Various artists

Complements

  • Out of print

Web Releases

Various artists
  • Available
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In the Press

  • Steffen B Pedersen, Geiger, December 13, 2005
  • Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight, October 20, 2005
    … the Montréal-born idiom known as musique actuelle really is capable of embracing almost everything from the minimalist gestures of Babin and Hétu to the ear-scorching aural firestorms of Dontigny and d’Orion.
  • Hainey Kevin, Exclaim!, July 11, 2005
    … it never dulls, nor does it ever fail in delivering top-quality noise in fucking bucketfuls.
  • François Couture, All-Music Guide, July 8, 2005
    … deviant electroacoustic works… highly recommended noise art.

Anmeldelser

Steffen B Pedersen, Geiger, December 13, 2005

Gennem efterhånden en pæn række udgivelser fra fransk-canadiske morceaux_de_machines — duoen A_dontigny og Érick d’Orion, som skaber deres musik gennem en kombination af computere, turntables og specialbehandlede cd’er — fået et renommé som ”The B-Boys of musique concrète”. Nuvel, man kan diskutere, hvor meget musique concrète, der egentlig er over deres udtryk og arbejdsmetoder, ligesom mangen en hip hopper helt sikkert vil få sin burger galt i halsen, hvis han lægger ører til parrets improv noise-frembringelser. Men albummet Estrapade, der er opkaldt efter en middelalderlig torturmetode, er da bestemt en interessant lytteoplevelse, hvor pladespillerens rolle i duoens univers kun bliver forstærket ved tilstedeværelsen af Martin Tétreault og japanoise-legenden Otomo Yoshihide, der sågar har gjort en dyd ud af at ikke at putte skiver på pladetallerkenen!

Yoshihides udtryk har ofte en sælsom, zenbuddhistisk ro over sig, som det dog ikke er lykkedes ham at overføre til denne sammenhæng. Ikke forstået på den måde, at man kastes ud i infernalske støjorgier, for morceaux_de_machines’ musik er faktisk ganske raffineret. Men deres støjopfattelse er klart mere vestlig — centreret omkring interferens-forestillingen mere end idéen om støjen som et billede på tilværelsens enhed af statik og bevægelse. Således består de ni improvisationer, som tilsammen sniger sig op over 75 minutters spilletid, mere af bittesmå temaer, strømme og rytmefragmenter, der med grammofonen og diverse effektbokse som grundredskaber kaster sig rundt imellem hinanden i psykedeliske lydkaskader, der det ene øjeblik kan være voldsomme og katharsiske, det næste spindelsvævsfine og ligefrem smukke. Det hænder, at besætningen ligefrem tryller breakbeats frem af posen, der i passager synes at give de mange lag — som ofte paradoksalt nok arbejder ret perfekt sammen ved at stræbe i hver deres retning — én retning og ét formål, men ellers ligger albummets styrke netop i, at det skaber kaotiske enheder. Kaotiske enheder forstået på den måde, at de scratches, fejlstrømme, effekter og samples, hvert nummer består af, på én gang synes at køre hver deres uafhængige løb og alligevel arbejde sig hen mod ét fælles, naturligt ophør.

Specielt vellykkede eksempler på denne æstetik er dels kludetæppet Fonçage de pieux, der over 11 minutter lader det ene lag overdøve det andet i en smuk, kalejdoskopisk kakofoni, dels den endnu længere Trépanation, der starter som en collage af slingrende, tiltende vinyl for at ende i en stor, krads og alligevel fantastisk kulmination, der i lige dele er free jazz og noise. Men også den skingre, lavmælt hakkende Tromocrates og det anderledes tordnende, dystre titelnummer bør fremhæves som fine eksempler på, at selv ret harsk noise kan rumme subtile lydlige nuancer, og som helhed er albummet at betragte som vellykket, da det lykkes morceaux_de_machines og staben af gæstemusikere, der også inkluderer sampling-specialisten Diane Labrosse, at angribe deres egen egentlige ret stramme æstetik fra så mange skiftende vinkler, at man interesseret bliver hængende til den sidste resonans toner ud.

Tortur er Estrapade bestemt ikke, med mindre man da har en syg idé om, at musik skal være rigtige melodier spillet på rigtige instrumenter af rigtige musikere. Man har hørt bedre og mere interessante eksempler på, hvad man kan få ud af at kombinerere støj og improv — f.eks. netop hos Hr. Yoshihide — men morceaux_de_machines’ nye udspil beviser absolut, at også Canada kan producere noise af en stor både æstetisk og musikalsk relevans.

Sonic Voyageurs

Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight, October 20, 2005

Montréal is just a five-hour flight away, but the cultural capital of Francophone Canada can sometimes seem as remote as Antarctica. West Coast residents know the city as the home of relaxed liquor laws, good restaurants, and great delis, but we’re rarely exposed to the music that’s made there—and that’s almost entirely because most of it, whether pop, rock, or contemporary classical, is not sung in English.

North America’s largest French-speaking city is home to a thriving music industry and a club scene that we can only envy, but connecting with them seems difficult, thanks to the barrier of language. It’s ironic, then, that one of Montréal’s lesser-known contributions to the world of sound might end up being Vancouver’s entrée to Quebec’s musical life. Musique actuelle—a hybrid style that emerged in Montréal during the mid-1980s—is a largely instrumental form, so unilingual Vancouverites need not be scared off by incomprehensible texts. And although the idiom is so all-embracing that it’s hard to define, it’s animated by the kind of exploratory spirit that’s drives Vancouver groups like Talking Pictures and the Hard Rubber Orchestra. So it shouldn’t be that difficult for B.C. ears to appreciate Montréal’s sonic explorers, and we’ll get a chance to do just that this week, thanks to the Vancouver New Music Society’s Interférence: Statique X Statique festival.

Although the event, which runs at the Scotiabank Dance Centre until Saturday (October 22), features non-Francophone artists such as the U.K.’s Fred Frith and Janek Schaeffer, most of the performers hail from Quebec, and many of them, like Diane Labrosse, are 20-year veterans of the musique actuelle scene. Nonetheless, the otherwise charmingly articulate keyboardist still finds it difficult to explain what it is, exactly, that her chosen style includes—and that, it seems, is not only a linguistic issue.

“It’s a hard thing to do, describing a music that’s so broad,” Labrosse says, on the line from her Montréal home. “Of course at first there was progressive rock, and then improv came along, and then came the idea of putting together different styles of music. Some musicians began to draw on the roots of jazz, and also using more traditional or folkloric stuff, and then putting all of this together to make a new hybrid of music, which we called musique actuelle. We even find these different direct references within the same piece.”

The style’s name, like the music itself, contains a wealth of inferences and possibilities. Its sounds are “actuelle” because they’re real music made by real musicians, as opposed to machine-made, bottom-line-driven pop, but also because they reflect the kaleidoscopic reality of today’s media environment. The argument Labrosse makes is that few people confine their listening to just one genre, so why should musicians suffer self- imposed limitations on what they play?

Her own career reflects this wide-open attitude. She’s written scores for dance, penned twisted avant-pop tunes, worked extensively with sample-based music, and performed with a global array of free improvisers. And in her Thursday-night concert at the Dance Centre, she’ll move a step or two toward abstract sound, in the company of multimedia artist Jean-Pierre Gauthier.

“Jean-Pierre is more known in the visual arts,” Labrosse notes. “He started out as a sculptor, a visual artist, and then he started to make some sound sculptures. This is where we got involved together quite a few years ago, maybe in 1998 or 2000 or whatever. We did a project where he was working with rubber tubes and compressors and bird whistles, things of that nature, so it was a noisy kind of culture. That started him doing shows, or doing performances; before that he was more of a sound installer, working in galleries and things like that. But he’s always done very fine work, juxtaposing visual and audio stuff.”

Labrosse reveals that she doesn’t yet know what Gauthier will be bringing to their Interférence show. “He told me that it’s very small, and that it’s something that he’s made, and that it varies from one performance to another.”

With that in mind, she’s readying herself for a performance that will be improvised from start to finish, as will several of the other bookings that Vancouver New Music artistic director Giorgio Magnanensi has arranged for his festival. Following Labrosse on Thursday will be the cross-country quartet of Pierre Tanguay, Bernard Falaise, Dylan van der Schyff, and Ron Samworth, a group she describes as well worth hearing.

“It’s a double-duo sort of thing: two drummers that work in a similar fashion, and two guitarists that also work in a similar fashion,” she explains. “But everybody’s very different and has a real personality. I saw this band in Montréal, and it was quite a nice concert.”

Friday night (October 21) features performances by sound artist Magali Babin and saxophonist Joane Hétu, followed by Klaxon Gueule, a trio that includes guitarist Falaise, percussionist Michel F Côté, and pianist Alexandre St-Onge. Like Labrosse’s collaboration with Gauthier, both of these ensembles patrol the grey area between sound sculpture and more conventional forms of improvisation, a zone that increasingly draws practitioners of musique actuelle.

“You start with finding new sounds on your guitar or your bass or your drums,” Labrosse notes. “And you move from there to adding effects, and then to [computer-based] processing, or even to building your own instruments.”

Fittingly, then, Interférence’s musique actuelle survey will conclude on Saturday with Morceaux_de_Machines, an abrasive and intense collaboration between sound designers Aimé Dontigny and Érick d’Orion that has earned comparisons to noise innovators Einstürzende Neubauten and Otomo Yoshihide.

It seems that the Montréal-born idiom known as musique actuelle really is capable of embracing almost everything from the minimalist gestures of Babin and Hétu to the ear-scorching aural firestorms of Dontigny and d’Orion. Close observers of the Vancouver scene will note that our own creative musicians are capable of a very similar range of styles; perhaps the gulf between East and West, between Francophone and Anglophone, is narrowing at last.

… the Montréal-born idiom known as musique actuelle really is capable of embracing almost everything from the minimalist gestures of Babin and Hétu to the ear-scorching aural firestorms of Dontigny and d’Orion.

Review

Hainey Kevin, Exclaim!, July 11, 2005

The sophomore album from this Montréal noise improvisation duo (A_dontigny and Érick d’Orion) enlists the inimitable help of extremist sound artists Diane Labrosse, Otomo Yoshihide and Martin Tétreault to create a titanic excursion into various depths of noisy mayhem and intrigue. morceaux_de_machines use prepared CD’s, amplified turntables, samplers, live electronics and a plethora of effects to create intense layers of piercing and bass-heavy noise, occasionally mixing in elements of other genres, like techno, hip-hop and drum & bass (but never so much to sound diluted, or like a crossover act — these cats are definitely dedicated to the almighty noise factor). The results are all over the place, but never boring or awkward. The noisy techno stomp of Onanisme segues nicely into free-noise deconstruction on Placenta compressa, then takes an abrupt turn with the brief drum&bass one-off Triple fermentation. Estrapade is a long, expansive album, but it never dulls, nor does it ever fail in delivering top-quality noise in fucking bucketfuls.

… it never dulls, nor does it ever fail in delivering top-quality noise in fucking bucketfuls.

Review

François Couture, All-Music Guide, July 8, 2005

morceaux_de_machines’s follow-up to the thunderous debut liberum arbitrium is slightly more tempered. Not that A_dontigny (aka Aimé Dontigny) and Érick d’Orion are going soft, but since the first album they have considerably expanded their dynamic spectrum. The core of the music still consists of disembodied CD quotes and harsh electronics, but the pieces are less like brutal sound collages and more like deviant electroacoustic works (an impression emphasized by the fact that the group turned to maximalist electroacoustic composer Paul Dolden for the post-production and mastering stages). Tromocrates and Fonçage de pieux exemplify the new approach. Both of these long pieces explore quiet textures and extreme saturation in non-linear developments that sound surprisingly composed (for a group relying almost exclusively on improvisation). That being said, there is still a potent amount of harsh noise at play and fans of Merzbow, Smegma, Doc Wör Mirran and the likes will be delighted to feel (not “hear”, “feel”) waves of crashing sounds, escalating treated screams and various kinds of powerful sound matter pouring out of the speakers. Estrapade also features collaborations with two other duos: Parasites, the ongoing project of Diane Labrosse and Martin Tétreault, and the turntable duo of Tétreault and Japanese veteran Otomo Yoshihide. Dontigny and Labrosse had already recorded together (see the convincing live set Télépathie). The tracks with Parasites tend to use more closely defined textures layered in somewhat less intense, more pernicious assemblages, providing a counterpoint to the more vehement tracks. The 15-minute Trépanation provides one of the disc’s strongest moments, along with the aforementioned pieces and the intensely sculpted title piece. The only track with Yoshihide is less successful, mostly because individual inputs don’t fall as cleanly into place as elsewhere on the album. If you already enjoyed liberum arbitrium, don’t hesitate over this second effort. If you are new to the band, Estrapade may be a bit easier to get into (although if you are looking for the hardest-hitting punch, start with the previous album). In any case, this is highly recommended noise art.

… deviant electroacoustic works… highly recommended noise art.

More Texts

Terz, Critiques de disques no. 34

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