Friday, April 06, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - April 4/07

Gotta hand it to Ambiances Magnetiques for being such an adaptable label over its 25 year history. I interviewed their prime mover Joane Hetu a few years ago and was thoroughly impressed by her dedication, steeliness, and pragmatism to the difficult business environment of difficult music (and she's a kickass improviser). What's struck me most - and this came up during the interview - was how a loose, anarchic collective managed to keep itself together to forge a sonic identity while still welcoming sounds and participants who have nothing to do with the original collective.

At one point AM was seemingly bound up in the cultural developments of Quebec from the 60s to the 80s. Hetu told me that this was something of a fallacy - the original members of the collective had no explicit national or separatist agenda, and the government of Quebec did not support their early years because this kind of culture was too weird for the the kind of language-centric official Quebecois culture that was being promoted during the 80s. It was only when AM (and the Festival International De Musique Actuelle a Victoriaville) became better known internationally that greater attention was paid to it by provincial funding bodies.

The last ten years have seen the label expand into a distribution concern to market all kinds of experimental music from across the province. Their vanguard status in Montreal has been at least challenged by Constellation and Alien 8 Recordings (though it's an apples and oranges situation in terms of comparing the music), but AM have released new generation artists such as Sam Shalabi, Alexandre St. Onge and others as well as being at least peripherally associated with the incredible binary star venue Casa Del Popolo/La Salla Rosa. They've expanded into distribution which encompasses other likeminded labels from around Quebec. Furthermore, AM have embraced lots of Anglo talent from Montreal and beyond: Rainer Wiens (in Toronto for an AIMT Interface this weekend), Tom Walsh, Lori Freedman and Toronto stalwart Michael Snow. An exciting new wrinkle is the issue of records which expand the Quebec/Canadian paradigm with global-minded improv by musicians such as Wiens, Ganesh Anandan and this week's blog star, Ziya Tabassian.

There’s no shortage of solo drum or percussion ensemble discs in the world. However, very few of these discs attempt to explore their subject matter in such a purely sonic way (I would be grateful to find out about others, though). This marks Tabassian's "Tombak" as an important building block in what will surely become more commonplace in years to come. Recorded live with no edits or overdubbing after the fact, Tombak shows Tabassian in total control of his instrument. He is well known in Quebec as a proficient player of this single headed, goblet shaped drum, but here he eschews pattern-based regular rhythms in favour of scraping, scratching and advanced tonal manipulation of this incredibly versatile instrument. Tabassian capitalizes on the quick and sensitive response of the tightly bound drum head to create everything from pure bass pulses to wind-like howls. Here's a sample:

Seul Devant Soi - Ziya Tabassian

kumisuru 1 - sato yukie/yagihashi tsukasa/higo hiroshi (jabrec)
hibiki - emily hay/marcos fernandes (trummerflora)
seul devant soi - ziya tabassian (ambiances magnetiques)
we see - hat and beard (indie)
song of the highwire shrimper - tim hecker (alien 8)
nr45 - badun (rump)
ache - peder (ubiquity)
maranata - maranata (vampisoul)
chopper 70 - wayne cochran (king/vampisoul)
que nega e esa - trio mocoto (crammed/zirguiboom)
le grand dome - biosphere (touch)
breathe between sleep - christ (benbecula)
jupiter jam - hipsta workaz (ubiquity)
alien - ananda shankar (times square)
los feligreses - luis santi y su conjunto (jazzman)
romaria - lura (times square)
que que tu fez - forro in the dark (nublu)
la samaria - orquestra nunez (soundway)
peace and love - shaumark and robinson (trojan)
jah a de creator - michigan and smiley (soul jazz/studio one)
step to jah dub - nucleus roots (universal egg)
civilization - the dub project (m)

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