AMN Reviews: FIMAV 2017 – The First Nine Concerts

By Irwin Block

VICTORIAVILLE, Que. – They came from across North America to this four-day festival and in the first nine of 21 concerts were treated to an eclectic offering demonstrating how wide the range and depth can be in the world of new and creative music.

For its 33rd season in this quiet town off the beaten track, 100 miles northeast of Montreal, Michel Levasseur, the veteran curator and musical director of the Festival International de Musique Actuelle, welcomed visitors, saying the arts constitute sustainable development that can succeed when properly supported.

The festival is regarded as a showcase for both established name artists and younger musicians seeking recognition. As expected, the first gigs were a mixed bag, with audiences divided as to artistic merit. The after-concert banter is a big part of the fun.

Thursday’s all-Canadian lineup began with dancer and performance artist Bill Coleman stumbling creatively over a stage filled with common objects, accompanied by the electronica and sound effects of composer Gordon Monahan. Coleman awakened slowly on stage, his hands unfolding as he stumbled over pieces of plastic. As he falls, plastic fragments emerge from under his clothes. Monahan attached sensors to the dancer’s muscles, his movements triggering various electronic sounds, while other sounds emerged from such common objects as cooking pots. When water drops from a horizontal pipe soaking the dancer, we wonder, is he drowning in the clutter? While visually arresting, musically it lacked an equally powerful impact.

In the next concert Montreal-based Colin Stetson displayed his virtuosity on the bass saxophone with a solo where, hyperventilating, he emitted parallel lines and textures by amplifying both the mouthpiece and his throat. He then led a 12-piece ensemble in a re-arrangement of Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony #3, also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. He gave that 1976 composition a post-rock flavouring with the addition of a rhythm section and there were some beautiful sections, especially when mezzo-soprano Megan Stetson, the leader’s sister, gave the melodies an operatic grandeur with her powerful projection and warm intonation. And yet, there were few musical surprises during its 100-minute duration.

The midnight show featured two experimental films – cityscapes with sound textures, the audiovisual material gathered by Swedish experimental field recordist Benny Jonas Nilsen and processed with Quebec resident Karl Lemieux. Unearthed depicts the devastation of a highly polluted area on the Russian-Norwegian border, while Yujiapu focuses on abandoned concrete high-rises in a Chinese city where shortage of funds created a modern ghost town. The soundtracks accentuated the obvious.

Friday was a more exciting day, and in the first afternoon concert the audience rose to its feet in rapturous applause after a superb concert by a string trio of American cellist Tristan Honsinger, and two Canadians – violinist Joshua Zubot and bassist Nicolas Caloia. They performed In the Sea from the alter of beautifully renovated Sainte-Christophe d’Arthabaska church. It’s in an older part of town, where the late Canadian prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier lived and prayed.

Working from a book of tune fragments, the trio improvised in an expansive and joyful collaboration, varying the tempi, textures, and volumes. Occasionally, Honsinger launched into a chant, or uttered a few words, injecting a comic element to the performance, as if to say, let’s have some fun here, and not take ourselves too seriously. The music ranged from sunshine Americana to segments that resembled some of the darker works of Shostakovich. This trio is well worth checking out on its current 19-stop North American tour.

Electronica and dance were the combined art forms for French artists Kasper T. Toeplitz and his partner, Myriam Gourfink. Toeplitz presented composed noise music from his laptop as Gourfink, in a simple black dress and black boots, in slow motion danced her way onto a table in various shades of light and darkness, with the music growing in intensity. She slowly returned to her starting position in tandem with the music. It was well-planned and programmed, easy to watch and absorb, though predictable.

There was something sad about the 8 p.m. concert that combined ailing vocalist Linda Sharrock, her partner, German saxophonist Mario Rechtern, and Austrian violinist Mia Zabelka. Sharrock, who has worked with Pharoah Sanders and her ex, the late jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock, survived a severe stroke in 2009, which left her partially paralyzed and aphasic. She was helped on stage, where she sat during the concert and uttered what sounded like extended moans and groans. The other musicians offered sonically adventurous material, but sadly, Sharrock’s vocals detracted from her partners’ creative outpouring.

The follow-up concert by the Indonesian duo called Senyawa was a revelation. With a great voice – power, clarity, versatility and a warm sound – Rully Shabara was accompanied by Wukir Suryadi, playing two remarkable home-made string instruments made from bamboo, string, and bits of metal. With pedals and loops, Suryadi was able to sound almost orchestral. They gave the music, based on the varied musical traditions of Indonesia, a foot-tapping, finger-snapping urgency. It was exciting, vibrant, varied, and meaningful – simultaneously accessible, challenging, and dramatic.

The second part of what was a double bill featured the post-rock ensemble known as Ex Eye, led by Montreal saxophonist Colin Stetson, with American electric guitarist Toby Summerfield, drummer Greg Fox, and Shahzad Ismaily on Moog synthesizer. The music is loud, powerful, and urgent, much appreciated by an audience that had its share of doom metal freaks, but to my ears, every piece ended up with the same overwhelming and pounding sound and texture. Their new CD on Relapse Records drops in June.

The big surprise of a long day was the Boston-based art-rock sextet known as Bent Knee, featuring vocalist Courtney Swain. It has the look and feel of a garage band, propelled by the powerful and varied drumming of Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth, and although I could barely make out the words of the vocals it didn’t seem to matter: The group’s sound was fresh and refreshing, its unpolished nature part of its charm. When I heard the line, In God We Trust, I could feel the sound of protest from a generation engulfed by uncertainty. The music is the narrative – raw, authentic, and innocent. Their wildly applauded, 95-minute show that started at midnight was breathtaking. Land Animal, their fourth album, drops in June.

Newsbits: Michael Foster / JJA Awards / Michael Bisio / Cleared / Risk Takers

Wadada Leo Smith

Jazz Right Now profiles Michael Foster.

The Jazz Journalists association 2017 awards winners include Wadada Leo Smith, Vijay Iyer, Nicole Mitchell, and many others.

Michael Bisio is profiled ahead of his concert tonight in Troy, NY.

Burning Ambulance reviews the latest album from Cleared, out now on Utech Records.

And on a lighter note, an article suggests that “risk-takers tend to like more avant-garde music.” I’m not sure I agree – musical risk takers, sure, but I don’t know of many skydivers or race car drivers into the styles of music featured here.

Chicago Scene: May 20-27, 2017

Ken Vandermark, at "Sonore" concert,...

This is a weekly overview live avant performances in the Chicago area. Contact us if you’d like your shows listed.

Saturday, May 20th 2017

8:00PM at Graham Foundation (Madlener House), 4 W Burton Pl (Free, RSVP)
Phill Niblock

Sunday, May 21st 2017

9:00PM at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W Belmont ($10 suggested donation) (wheelchair-accessible)
Elgar + Fred Lonberg-Holm
ZRL : Zach Good, Ryan Packard, Lia Kohl

Monday, May 22nd 2017

7:00PM at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N Ravenswood, 773.769.1069 ($10)
John Sparagana, John Corbett, Ken Vandermark

7:00PM at Harris Theater, 205 E Randolph, 312.334.7777
MusicNOW : On The Edge Of Silence
Musicians from the CSO — music by Djuro &Zcaron
ivkovi&cacute, Elizabeth Ogonek

8:00PM at Slate Arts and Performance, 3203 W North Ave, 847.312.1527
Jason Stein, Joseph Clayton Mills, Ryan Packard
Fred Lonberg-Holm, Aaron Zarzutzki
Sam Weinberg, Henry Fraser, Weasel Walter

9:00PM at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 773.281.4444 (wheelchair-accessible)
Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Jim Baker, Mars Williams, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt

Thursday, May 25th 2017

9:00PM at Elastic, 3429 W Diversey, #208, 773.772.3616 ($10)
Brandon Lopez Solo
Brandon Lopez Trio with Andrew Clinkman, Ryan Packard

Friday, May 26th 2017
8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($10)
Matt Piet & His Disorganization
Matt Piet, Tim Daisy
Nick Mazzarella, Josh Berman, Matt Piet, Tim Daisy

Saturday, May 27th 2017

6:00PM at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N Ravenswood, 773.769.1069
Fonema Consort, Parlour Tapes+ — Album release
8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($10)
Tatsu Aoki‘s Miyumi Project with Mwata Bowden, Edward Wilkerson, Jaime Kempkers, KIOTO, Noriko Sugiyama, Coco Elysses, Avreeayl Ra

For more information, such as directions, as well as upcoming performances, see:,,,,,,,,,,,

Suzanne Ciani Interviewed and Profiled

Source: The Guardian.

It might not seem so much of a stretch any more, but imagine spending your entire life in a tempestuous relationship with a machine. Not a sleek smartphone or tablet – we’ve seen how that can escalate in Spike Jonze’s Her. Instead picture a tapestry of tangled multicoloured wires, knobs and buttons, a bulky modular synthesizer otherwise known as the Buchla. Suzanne Ciani has spent much of her career testing the limits of one of these cumbersome instruments. So dedicated to its oscillating drones, burbles and bleeps did she become that has jokingly referred to the Buchla as “her boyfriend”. At times that affair was “traumatic”, she says now, down the phone from her studio in the Californian coastal enclave of Bolinas, sounding like both Marilyn Monroe and a Woodstock hippie. “Technology’s always very risky – you never know when it might break.”