[iks]: The Iksperience, Alive and Well
Dumont's project also includes other returning [iks] member, saxophonist Sébastien Arcand-Tourigny, who appeared on the first album, Punctum (Ora, 1997) then went on to do work on other projects before rejoining [iks] in 2004 for their 6th and 7th albums. Arcan-Tourigny has come a long way since Punctum, his rough, uninhibited yet rapidly tempered Julius Hemphill style gaining much more contours and shades; he's become a very skilful, soulful soloist and a powerful improviser who's totally at home in a creative environment like [iks].
Philippe Brault and João Catalão are entirely new to [iks] though not without their own repute or experiential baggage.
Basist Philippe Brault had already appeared on several stages across Quebec but it was after joining, in 2004, Quebec pop sensation Pierre Lapointe's group as arranger/Musical Director/bassist that he really made a name for himself for his important role in the creation of many of Lapointe's highly-heralded live shows and albums; in 2007, Brault (with Jean Massicotte) received a Felix for Best Musical Arrangement for Pierre Lapointe' highly successful platinum album, La forêt des mal-aimés (Audiogram, 2006). Along with [iks], Brault is also currently active with Erlenmeyer, an improvisation/spoken word collective launched by D. Kimm, which also features such improv heavyweights as Michel F Côté, Diane Labrosse, and Martin Tétreault.
Brazilian-born drummer/composer João Catalão studied first in Brasil, then France before making his way to Montreal to obtain a doctorate degree in Music Interpretation at the Université de Montréal, where he met Pohu. Catalão, the recipient of prestigious awards, is part of the UdM-affiliated percussions ensemble Sixtrum; Pohu also colloborates and has composed music for this group and he will be joining them on a tour of Quebec over the winter. The times I've seen Catalão play drums in the [iks] setting, a cross between Pierre Tanguay and Joey Baron is the only comparison that comes to mind. How can that not be a compliment?
The quintet formation has always been at the core of [iks], even if some albums have included additional percussionists and/or the occasional collaborations, such as clarinetist Robert Marcel Lepage and saxophonists Rémi Bolduc and Charles Papasoff who each appeared on a separate album. But, be it a quintet, the group's dynamic doesn't adhere to the common rhythm/soloist roles usually assigned within such ensembles. Sure, there's plenty of solos and interchange, but there's no real predominating voice; each player is given plenty of space and brings a dimension that can neither be considered "supportive" or "ornamental," but, simply, an equally important part of the whole.
For the un-initiated:
[iks] officially saw the light of day in 1996, the concretisation of a common vision that occurred when Guitarist Sylvain Pohu and bassist Pierre Alexandre Tremblay met while undertaking electroacoustic undergraduate music studies at the Université de Montréal, their friendship and mutual respect bonded by a deep admiration for each other's musical and compositional abilities, Their shared interests and passion became the kernel which propelled them to launch [iks] and the Ora music label.
Ora embodies Tremblay and Pohu's visions, their frustrations and forecasts vis-à-vis the shifts currently affecting the music industry; it's how they manage to cope with an indifferent market, and it's important to mention here simply due to the absolute, no-compromise freedom owning one's own label entails.
But don't be fooled, this shouldn't deter from their credibilityas if a major label guaranteed a better product. They are consummate artists, and this, at all levels, from composing to packaging the CD's; the final product is of the highest quality possible, the depth of the recordings a pure joy. In fact, that they are left to produce all aspects of each of their albums is a primary reason behind their critical success; it's clear that they aren't making popular music, nor do they have false aspirations.
Crudely categorizeda label for the sake of labels[iks] is a Montreal-based contemporary jazz band. More precisely, they're an experimental electroacoustic improvisation band. The compositions range from full-on improvisation to the written, the soloist finding freedom as the music, which seems to live in the space that exists between tones and melodies, adapts and flexes over a vast array of structural developments. But, unlike what you may expect, they don't sound anything like chaos. It's intelligent music with a soul, not intellectualized noise.