AMN Reviews: FIMAV 2014 Days 2 and 3

Merzbow
Cover of Merzbow

By IRWIN BLOCK

VICTORIAVILLE, Que. – The masters came to this charming town and captivated a crowd of connaisseurs with new musical creations.

Electric guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist Evan Parker – pioneers in the free and improvised jazz movement – delivered a model of how experts tell stories without a script.

Their concert was easily a highlight on the third day of this four-day Festival de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville that shifted from Noise and Sludge Rock on Day 2 to Free Jazz and more Noise on Day 3.

Frith and Parker have known each other for 40 years. Although it was only the third time as a duo, they demonstrated how there are no limits to how far open-minded players can go.

Parker played more of a straight-man with a seemingly endless variety of runs on tenor and soprano sax while Frith used his guitar as a rhythmic device with the instrument sitting on his knees. He slapped the strings with paintbrushes, scraped them with metal, drummed on the fret board with sticks, then covered it with cloth and played it like a piano.

What emerged was a series of pieces conveying moods, patterns, soundscapes and textures that stood as complete musical statements.

“How are we doing?” Frith asked the rapt audience. “Great!” shouted one fan, a sentiment many shared after hearing 14 of 20 scheduled concerts that wrap up Sunday.

Earlier Saturday, Ken Vandermark, the Chicago-based saxophonist/composer, led his Audio One tentet through a thrilling program of originals, featuring a hard-blowing and inventive front line of fellow reedists Mars Williams, Dave Rempis, Nick Mazzarella, and trombonist Jeb Bishop, propelled by the dynamic drumming of Tim Daisy.

The songs were well crafted with space for lessening intensity, written in for violist Jen Paulson, often in tandem with vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, who in his own solos injected an edgy and percussive approach not often used with the vibraphone. It was a big, brash, brassy blow out.

The midnight show was another body-blasting Noise outing featuring Japan’s Prince of Darkness, guitarist/vocalist Kaiji Haino, with Australian drummer Oren Ambarchi and American electric bassist Stephen O’Malley

Dressed in black with his silver head of hair hanging to his elbows and dark glasses, Haino shouted Noise in his look, intense drone sounds, and vocals. Ambarchi, well known as a guitarist, displayed incredible energy and skill in establishing a percussive wall as bassist O’Malley deepened the drone effect. The energy level subsided after an hour, ending 15 minutes later with a final Haino howl.

Earlier, the 11-member Haram (Arabic for forbidden) ensemble delivered a bright and melodic concert combining traditional Arabic-style music with a juxtaposition of free improv. Vancouver-based Oud player Gordon Grdina led the way with three traditional instrumentalists, while such accomplished improvisers as clarinetist François Houle, saxophonist Chris Kelly and violinists Josh and Jesse Zubot took the music Out with their interpretive excursions.

Day 2 featured a first concert by Keiji Haino, with Masami Akita,, known as Merzbow, (electronics), the propulsive drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, and the French electric guitarist Richard Pinhas. Against a subversive and threatening wall of sound, we heard shades of darkness and glimmers of light, incremental shifts in tone and texture. Haino danced around his mike, soaring and diving bird-like. Suddenly a melody emerged. The operative adjectives: spacey yet accessible.

A crowd of head-bangers showed up for the midnight concert Friday featuring Italian sludge rockers Ufomammut – electric guitarist Giuliano Poggi, electric bassist Giovanni Rossi, and drummer Gianni Vitarelli.

Strong, repetitive, slower paced rock laced with effects created a mesmerizing vibe, and the bangers flashed devil signs to the musicians in appreciation. We got the message.

irblock@hotmail.com

See also:
FIMAV 2014 Day 1