The small group appearances of Myhr, Denley, Wallumrød and Zach led toward one of the absolute highlights of the week, a concert by the Trondheim Jazz Orkester They were the height of ensemble playing, a commissioned ensemble handpicked and led by Myrh playing with tonality and atonality artfully balanced carefully, singing and vocalese used thoughtfully. Even the pounding of drums was done lightly; this was perhaps the music of the seldom seen Norwegian sun, as opposed to the eternal night of their blackened metal. Myrh's compositions used the language of minimalist improvthere was the dischord, the contrasts of musicality and amusicality, the sustain and release but where such extended improv meetings often also rely on the creation of tension, this was placid.
Some of this year's best moments, in fact, came from a sort of composed stillness: not just with the Trondheim, but Shalabi's Eastern hallucinations andin what turned out to be his final concertBill Dixon's excellent Tapestries for Small Orchestra. Dixon's group followed the mold of his recent recordings and appearances at the Vision Festival, but presented a new, long-form composition for FIMAV. Regardless of what tradition he might be seen as being a part of, his large ensembles are far from free-for-alls. They are an extension of the stillness in his own playingin this instance with four trumpets (plus the leader on tape) and a lower register comprised of two bass viols, bass and contrabass clarinets and typani. There was a remarkable control at play ensemble-wide, something of the tension of Morton Feldman with Billy Strayhorn vowels and, as ever with Dixon's work, it was deeply about the trumpet. There was barely a breeze over Dixon's pond. A passage of him playing, recorded some decades ago and used here as a brief interlude, provided a blueprint for what the band was about. Placid and heavily reveberated, the orchestra opened the waters, showing the motion, the currents and the life within a seemingly still pond. At other times, it swelled and constricted like a bagpipe the size of a swimming pool, left to deflate in the sun.
There's always an undercurrent of rock at Victo, this year perhaps less so than usual, but still there were some interesting bookings. Quebec guitarist AUN (aka Martin Dumais) played with the drummer Michel Langevin (who goes by the name "Away" in the metal band Voivod) against sound and video provided by Julie Leblanc for a session of distorted drone, which made for an expansive solo field for Langevin to play in without quite playing a drum solo. His mid-tempo patterns may have made it a bit like a Stars on 45 mix of Metal Machine Music, but it did pack a punch, at a volume few other than FIMAV often push. The young guitar/drum duo Vialka played authentic, anthemic, super-precise punk prog drawing lines between Tatsuya Yoshida's Ruins and the European Rock in Opposition movement. And Lydia Lunch, who performed with French sound sculptor Phillipe Petit, certainly has her place in rock history, even if what she delivered was more rant than anything else.
But one rock act brought together much of what the Victo fest is all about. Causing a Tiger is a new trio uniting violinist Carla Kihlstedt and drummer Matthias Bossi (both of the proggish goth metal band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) with Shahzad Ismaily (who plays with Kihlstedt in her Two Foot Yard) on electric guitar and bass. They played a powerful set of songs, improvising a rock band with lyrics borrowed from the 15th century Japanese poet Ikkyu. Spontaneous, cogent and powerful, they summed up everything musique actuelle is about.
All Photos: Martin Morissette