Well, as with all of my good intentions, my promise to write daily reviews of S+R events came to naught on account of a combination of activity, conversation, Merlot and Big Rock. So what follows is from memory, that notoriously unreliable of sources:
Friday May 11: (The Montréal Invasion)
The night starts of with 5mm, and audiovisual piece by Montréal guys Gabrielle Coutu-Dumont(video) and Marc Leclaire (sonix). Ostensibly, its about the development and formation of human life, starting from the moment when the fetus becomes recognizably anthropoid. Ok, …if you say so. Not impressive; the videos were sometimes interesting, but mostly seemed to float along at their own pace despite whatever the music was doing. As for the music, Leclaire has a lot of ardent admirers, among whom I don’t particularly count myself, but it was certainly the strongest element of the piece. And I should point out that it seemed to have fuck all to do with inter-uterine development. A bit of a dud - the first thing so far that I really didn’t like.
Fortunately, this is OK, because the rest of the performances are superb. Scant Intone and crys cole all put on performances that were elegant and interesting, commanding a whole set of tones and resonances that were really moving. (Scant Intone wad particularly touching, given that he sat crosslegged on the floor wrapped in a hoody. He looked like he was 12 yrs old, which gave a pleasantly child-like aspect to the performance, belied by the sometimes extremely abrasive tones he generated.)
However, it must be said that the night (and, arguably, the festival) belonged to Tim Hecker, performing from his new record Harmony in Ultraviolet. I’ve mentioned it briefly in the previous post, and all of my mild objections have more or less vanished. I've seen him play three times before, but this was the most intense plateau he’s every reached. A really knock-you-to-your-knees set. More on him later…
What are they putting in the water in Montréal?
Saturday May 12: (Les mains)
This night, I’m sorry to say, was a bit of an alcoholic blur. All the artists (Minibloc and Martin Tetreault) were excellent, the later in particular, but it was Andrew Liles’s set that really stands out in the mind. I was a little worried that it would get a little too occult/gothy/ley lines type thing, but these worries were groundless, although make no mistake, a mighty darkness settled in the Ace Art main gallery that night! The contrast between Tim and Andrew is instructive, but I will get to that in a later post. A good time seems to have been had by all (me in particular). Sunday morning was not a promising prospect.
Sunday May 13: (S+R goes electro-acoustic!!)
Sunday night at the West End Cultural Centre, where I invariably get annoyed with something or someone who works or volunteers there. (I really don’t know why this is the case, but I can go to the venue brimming with insouciant joie-de-vivre and leave an hour later wanting to kill someone.) Anyways, with all due respect to the volunteers who wanted to go home so badly that they were clearing up chairs and tables before the final performance had even ended, I will refrain from further invective. (Which is odd for me, really.)
Anyways, Frieda Abtan had two pieces going: a laptop piece similar in a lot of ways to Andrew Liles’ the previous night, perhaps a little less sinister, a bit more elegant, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing: a good thing insofar as it demonstrates a certain poise and an awareness of performance qua performance (nothing gets more tedious that a 7th generation Iggy or Jagger, I assure thee) and a bad thing because it can lead one into truly appalling “tasteful” areas that aren’t all that far from banal confusions of prettiness with intensity.
Which is, alas, what happened with Heartstrings, a piece for laptop and string quartet. The laptop part was pleasant enough, but the string quartet was really not all that good at all - it would have been considered too conservative for the New Music Festival, which still thinks that Pierre Boulez is a little too “out there”. As with This Camera is Red, I didn’t not like the string quartet (although I felt embarrassed for them having to sit on stage while the laptop played itself. Something should have been done about that, like a fucking curtain rising, for example.), the music was pleasant enough if somewhat unadventurous, but as with 5mm, it was the visual component of the piece that really let the project down. Birds flying around cathedrals, waves crashing against the shore, conjoined bodies,…all we needed was a few rose petals scattering around and we are in deep Goth territory more or less abandoned by even the Sisters of Mercy sometime in 1989. Pleasant if you like that sort of thing (which I admit to kinda doing), but really…well….silly.
Steve Bates closed the night and the festival with his “piano piece” (although I was mildly, mildly disappointed to not that he seemed to spend more time with his equalizer and laptop than he did with the piano.) In one sense, and this isn’t meant as critical as it sounds, its much the same affective plateau that he’s been inhabiting for awhile. Having said that, it’s an interesting place to be: an uneasy immersive sound that gradually leads you from one palace to another with such slyness that you scarcely know that you are moving. There’s lots of space for Steve to inhabit in the area he’s developed for himself yet, so there’s no danger of him exhausting his possibilities for a long time to come.
Anyways, it was nice to see a lot of new people out for the performances which seemed to be extremely well attended, and not just be the usual festival crowd. I’m both sad and glad that its over: sad, because chatting and drinking and listening to incredible music is lots of fun, but kinda glad that I can get back to this blog and all the other things that I have to do this week. Procrastinating is soooo much fun.