Published Jul 16, 2009Montreal in the summer is pretty much a bewildering glut of festivals. You name the art and you will probably have two or three festivals of that nature with the possibility of overlap. Fortunately, the folks at Suoni Per Il Popolo put on a month-long mash-up of shows that allow the more adventurous listener a decent slate of music.
This year's festival was weighted heavily in favour of the noise/experimental electronics scene, with the next largest stat going to free jazz, followed by avant-folk and punk/avant-rock.
The electronic/noise program swung wildly from formal electroacoustics to withering noise meltdowns. A less than memorable night of neo-romantic laptop/electronics featured a disappointing set by Tim Hecker (pictured above), whose usually inspired work was clouded by a level of distortion that made one wonder whether it was the speakers that were baked or simply Hecker.
A tribute to composer/educator Alcides Lanza featured excellent performances by Alexandre Burton and Erick Dorion, both encompassing different approaches to electroacoustic music: Burton with a more formal approach on laptop and Dorion using contact mics and live electronics to great effect.
The noise acts at Centro Gallego were more consistent and satisfying, with some amazing work by Clinton Machine, Hive Mind and Menace Ruine, all showing a savage vitality that eschewed the traps of formalism.
The free jazz series was highlighted by the Braam, DeJoode, Vatcher trio, whose fluency with form and freedom was thrilling, as well as some solid performances by Marilyn Lerner's Ugly Beauties and Montreal's Quartetski, who approached the music of Erik Satie with an inspired display of attention and restraint. The evening of Thelonious Monk music led by Alexander von Schlippenbach, while a lot of fun, spoke more to the side of bebop skills than the idiosyncrasies of the master, curiously absenting swing in the process.
The avant-folk/experimental series seemed to wallow a bit in rehashed, amped-up Fahey/Martin Carthy outtakes or modal jams, but found inspired moments in UK guitarist/pianist James Blackshaw, Portland's Arrington de Dionyso and a jaw -dropping trance ritual by Montreal's Les Reines d'Angleterre, which proved to be one of two sleepers of the festival, the other one being a set of crushing, Beefheartian minimalism by Brooklyn's Zs.
Some other excellent wild cards took the form of an electronics trio featuring Lisle Ellis, Martin Schmidt (Matmos) and Jason Willett, a surprisingly aggressive Pauline Oliveros featured in the Timeless Pulse Ensemble, and an eight-hour performance on Boulevard St. Laurent where the audience sat outside watching odd shadows on paper over gallery windows accompanied by various glitches, drones and audio craftiness by, among others, Anna Friz and Martin Tétreault.
Punk rock and other forms of aggression were well represented with some raucous and no bullshit throw-downs by Jay Reatard, the Coathangers, Zoobombs and a sold-out, crazed and joyful set by NoMeansNo, proving you can be old farts and still play a long and killin' night of music.