Published Jul 01, 2005Large ensembles was a watch phrase for this year's festival (the 22nd), with Espaces Sonores Illimité featuring 50 players from three Quebec orchestras kicking things off with some power. Later, the smaller ensemble of Nels Cline Singers provided an even more visceral and varied experience, with elements of free jazz, rock and metal colliding. Composer Michel F. Côté presented "Mecha Fixes Clock," a free-flowing mix of electronics and acoustic instruments that encouraged improvised clusters amid the scripted work. An early highlight was the turntable duo of Philip Jeck and Janek Schaefer. The two Brits employed their usual weaponry: Jeck's pawn shop turntables and Schaefer "tri-phonic" deck, featuring three independent tone arms. The restriction placed upon the performance was to limit their vinyl to a cache they brought back with them from their travels through Greece and Turkey, from pop to folk to classical strings. The created music from these exotic sources was engagingly melodic and occasionally rapturous. The odd couple of Anthony Braxton and Fred Frith held a sax and guitar summit that featured top-flight playing from both, but disappointingly each remained mostly parallel to the other, rather than locking horns. The equally odd couple of Kid Koala and Martin Tetreault had better success blending KK's hip-hop trickery with MT's more esoteric but still light-hearted turntablism. Hair Police and Wolf Eyes kicked off the Thurston Moore-curated Saturday of noise rock, free folk and jazz. Hair Police pounded out a doom-laden mix of harsh electronics, detuned guitar and live drumming with post-apocalyptic metal abandon. Wolf Eyes were joined by Anthony Braxton, who is a big fan. They mercilessly drowned out the free sax pioneer before an electronics breakdown revealed Wolf John Olson to be an adept lounge MC, entertaining/denigrating the crowd like a Vegas veteran. Thurston's own Dream Aktion Unit exploded with an hour-long wall of noise featuring frequent free folk collaborators saxophonist Paul Flahery, drummer Chris Corsano (Six Organs of Admittance) and violinist C. Spencer Yeh. Technical problems muted the full range of the assault through the middle third of the performance though. Double Leopards (the ABBA of noise rock) capped off the night with a wall of drone generated from heavily processed vocalisations and minimal instrumentation. Another highlight was the return appearance by Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet, who blistered cheeks and peeled back fingernails on their way to a frenzied free jazz Elysium.