[iks]: The Iksperience, Alive and Well
The driving force is passion. These guys, each well-trained and schooled musicians truly are making music purely and simply for the sake of musiccreation born out of a need to create, not out of false expectations. And you can feel it. The group is actually led by that all ever important mix of raw passion and reigned talent propelled by an honest curiosity to explore new grounds in various ways, as much in regards to structure and style as in their live integration of technological wizardry. There's a whole technical side to [iks], one that seeks to push the limits of technology, instruments, and sound, but, and one of the reasons making this band hard to classify, whilst never allowing this aspect to take precedence over musicianship.
Clearly it is jazz; the sense of freedom inherent to jazz is there, their compositions merely acting as frameworks for the heartfelt communication that is about to unfold, effortlessly told with remarkable insight in a complex language that combines various styles and melodic influences, confined only by emotions and skills. Listeners are carried into recognizable music-scapes in truly unique ways; yet the minute you think you've put your finger on it, a transformation has already taken place, exploded, coalesced new genres that carry listeners into another dimension; this, from song to song, and album to album.
A phrase Tremblay likes to repeat and, no doubt, his and Pohu's mantra: "The day I release an album that's exactly like my last is the day I stop making music."
For this reason, [iks] has so far maintained a rare freshness with each of its seven albums, approaching each project as an opportunity to capture the group's momentwith all of its metaphysical implicationsby utilising all of the collective knowledge gained up to that point, and drawing on the emotions present at that period of their lives. This is what makes those inevitable, reality-imposed changes in members the band has had to endure incredibly palatable to fans rather than detrimental; the per project approach frees new members from having to be imitations of their predecessor. It allows and adapts to each player's individual dexterity and versatility as musicians, as opposed to mere band members, and their ability to communicate that individuality, but as a whole. Yet the [iks] concept is so well defined and their goal so well understood amongst the musicians involved in each project that the band manages to pull off and achieve what so very few seem to attaina unique and identifiable sound. Hence, every project truly is a new iksperience.
And indeed, from their weaker though nonetheless pioneering, rap-incorporating first album, Punctum (Ora, 1997), le journal de sable (ORA, 2002), the result of the group's 3-month long journey in Africa, all the way through to their phenomenal, push-all-studio-boundaries album, Inner Whatever (Ora, 2005), and their self-imposed video/audio challenge performance piece, Le Cauchemar De L'horloger (Ora, 2008), each album offers an entirely different approach and focus. Albeit that, when compared to subsequent albums, Punctum can best be described as a fusion of styles rather than a true breakthrough in the group's sound, but since each album chronicles their evolution, it's an apt debut for the band as well as for listeners.
I'm really hard pressed to find comparisons for this band. It would be easier for me to find relations between any random cacophonous freeform group than between this and other bands. The combination of electronics/sound processing with raw instruments is mostly what gives their music an unfamiliar feel; strong compositional skills add further to this unclassifiability.
The Paris-based band L e B r u i t d u [ s i gn ] comes to mind, but there's also a clear relation between these two bands which would account for any similitude. Like-minded folks always find a way to connect, and so did Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, saxophonist/composer Nicolas Stephan, and drummer Seb Brun. The latter two are founding members of L e B r u i t d u [ s i gn ] with whom Tremblay collaborated on an album, all three also forming the raw, electroacoustic garage trio ars circa musicæ. Nicolas Stephan also collaborated on [iks]'s Inner Whatever.
This band is part of an emergent musical movement, one that adheres to a clear mentality guided by some still unwritten manifesto, its roots in Montreal, Paris, and Huddersfield. Some may see this new school purely as a natural extension/progression of Pierre Schaeffer's radical contributions in the 50's and the Paris-based Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète that consequently formed then divided, spawning various branches, but this would be an inaccurate and reductive view of the [iks] aesthetic; although acousmatic sounds have played an increasingly integral part of this band's repertoire, it is far from being their focus.