Festival International Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville Victoriaville QC - May 20 to 24, 2004

Festival International Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville Victoriaville QC - May 20 to 24, 2004
The 21st edition of the festival started out with a bang, well several bangs, taps, gongs and birdcalls, actually. Cyro Baptista unleashed his octet of percussionists for "Beat the Donkey." The multi-ethnic group travelled through Brazilian folk songs, Balinese dance routines and twilight zone stomps. The standout amongst the crew was Viva DeConcini, who occasionally swapped percussive duties for ukulele and guitar, leading the group in an encore rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." On Friday, the Toronto-based duo of Mike Hansen and Tomasz Krakowiak were joined by British laptop artist Kaffe Matthews. Hansen concentrated on the rumbling and popping of his turntable source, while Krakowiak coaxed sounds from close miced toms and cymbals. Matthews worked the energy in between, sending abstract blasts from her computer and receiving, recycling and rerouting the sounds provided by the other two musicians. Saturday started with a wonderful show by French pianist Benoit Delbecq and Vancouver clarinettist Francois Houle. Delbecq's carefully prepared piano buzzed and rattled with controlled percussive notes while the duo enjoyed a gentle but intricate interplay. The double bill of Fennesz solo and the duo of Pita/Tina Frank was dominated by the latter. The stage was empty except for an enormous projection screen where Frank's abstract digital imagery interacted with Pita's sound design. What initially sounded like a microphone left unattended somewhere in the building eventually morphed into tones growing in frequency and intensity until the crowd was immersed in a full force gale of noise. Fennesz reappeared Sunday evening with fellow improvisers Keith Rowe, Oren Ambarchi and Toshimaru Nakamura for "Four Gentlemen of the Guitar." Those expecting actual guitar may have been confused by the tables of objects, laptops and, yes, the occasional guitar modified or dismantled to the point of non-recognition. Similarly, the sound of guitar was dismantled, except for the long, quiet decay of tone, which scarcely ever rose above a whisper but blended together into a somnambular feast of sounds. French saxophonist Louis Sclavis's "Napoli's Walls" was a highlight without a doubt. A quartet of unlikely instrumentation, acoustic guitar, cello, electronics and brass, the group's sound ranged from free jazz to Middle Eastern folk to full on power rock. Mederic Collignon split time between sampled beats on a drum kit, pocket trumpet and vocal gymnastics delivered with a clowning showmanship that galvanised the crowd. Han Bennink made a second appearance, following a blistering solo drum performance in the afternoon with festival closers the Ex. The Dutch veterans turned out an electrifying performance of political punk via no wave noise. Especially affecting were the pieces that saw drummer Katherina step forward for vocals, including a handful of Ethiopian folk songs.