24th Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville Victoriaville QC May 17 to 21

Unlike previous years where many of the festival acts skewed — either by design or chance — towards one particular style, this year solidarity via diversity reigned. The best of the rock acts included Koenji Hyakkei, a Japanese quintet directed by Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida that played precise and extreme, yet guitar-less, progressive metal. Like Zappa without the solos, they infused instrumental virtuosity with a good sense of fun. Giving it their all were guitar/drum noise/blues duo Magik Markers; while Pete Nolan propelled and contained things singer/guitarist Elisa Ambrogio made the most of her unconventional (read: limited) instrumental skills with ferocity of attack and a voice that sounded like Etta James channelled by a 14-year-old. The jazz camp was represented by Anthony Braxton, who returned to the festival for two performances. His Diamond Curtain Wall Trio was an intriguing brand of tempered and deliberate play by Braxton, trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum and guitarist Mary Halvorson married to Supercollider laptop software. The electronics created clouds of feedback, providing a strangely complementary resistance for the players to work with and against. Corkestra, a Dutch octet led by pianist Cor Fuhler, provided an early festival highpoint; billing themselves, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as "New Dutch Swing,” the group worked like an adventurous, melodic and highly cooperative system of pulleys and whirligigs. For topflight electronics improv there was Jason Kahn and Günter Müller’s Signal Quintet. Anchored by Kahn’s graduation of acoustic drum tappings through electronic pulses, the group included tabletop guitar by Tomas Korber, light activated gadgetry by Norbert Möslang and refreshingly musical bowed bass by Christian Weber. Most ambitious and site specific were Victoriaville Matière Sonore, an eight-strong summit of sound artists led by Francisco Lopez. With field recordings gathered in private and public spots throughout Victoriaville during the winter, each artist raided the available sound bank to recreate (one after the other) their sound-vision of the small town.