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Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville 2015, Part 2

Mike Chamberlain By

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Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville
Victoriaville, Quebec, Canada
May 16-17, 2015

Part 1 | Part 2

The site of the Pavilion Arthabaska, a chalet on a hill above the town, is a popular spot in Victoriaville (think lookout and make out), not a place that is obvious for avant-garde music, but the room featured some of the best shows of the festival. The sound in the room was impeccable, perfect for the "quiet" 1 o'clock shows—though the comfortable seats of the late Cinema Laurier were missed.

The group of Isabelle Duthoit, Franz Hautzinger, Martin Tetreault, and Dieb 13 opened Saturday's program with a performance that was subtle, detailed, and balanced. Duthoit's crackling voice—she used her clarinet very little—and Hautzinger's quarter-tone trumpet were the focal points, but the playing of Dieb 13 and Tetreault was precise in its coloring.

One of the themes of the festival was the presence of larger ensembles, such as Hans Tammen's Third Eye Orchestra, who were performing for the first time outside New York. This was a wonderful performance in its exploitation of the wide sound pallet available and in its attention to detail, but it would have been better if it had been somewhat shorter, as it devolved into a string of solos after about fifty minutes. Nonetheless, there was much to enjoy in it, especially the vocals of Shelley Hirsch and the computer and electronic manipulations of Dafna Naphtali.

Marc Ribot is always a favorite at the festival, and Saturday saw him play in back-to-back shows, first with Ceramic Dog, his trio with Ches Smith and Shahzad Ismaily, and then with the Nels Cline Singers Unlimited. Ceramic Dog was thoroughly enjoyable, as the trio ran through a somewhat folk-tinged set that included covers of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart," Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," and "The Thrill is Gone" for the recently-passed B.B. King.

The Nels Cline Singers Unlimited was comprised of Cline, Scott Amendola, and Trevor Dunn augmented by Ribot, Cyro Baptista, Brian Marsella, and Zeena Parkins. The audience at the large Colisée A ate up the performance, which featured a requisite amount of shredding by Cline, but Ribot was somewhat swallowed up in the mix, and the music seemed to meander in search of its center much of the time.

The French art-rock group Jack Dupon closed out Saturday with a rollicking and humorous midnight set that sent everyone home more than satisfied.

The trio of Erik Friedlander, Sylvie Courvoisier, and Ikue Mori opened the final day with a moving set of pieces dedicated to Friedlander's late wife titled "Claws and Wings." Friedlander and Courvoisier were shimmering and brilliant, and for once, it was a joy to hear Mori in a small group setting, where her subtle playing could be heard to its best advantage.

Chicago bassist Josh Abrams' Natural Information Society was a contrast, a feast of polyrhythms, featuring special guest Hamid Drake on percussion (congas and tablas). For some reason, this performance didn't grab me, though it's the sort of thing that I usually quite enjoy. I think it was me, not them.

The Japanese duo of Aki Onda and Akio Suzuki was more performance art than musical performance, as they moved around the small space of the Colisée B making sounds with small objects and homemade "instruments."

This year's edition of Victoriaville was perhaps the strongest I have attended—this was my fifteenth FIMAV in a row—and Sunday's performance by Kaze, the quartet of pianist Satoko Fujii, trumpeters Natsuki Tamura and Christian Pruvost, and drummer Peter Orins was my favorite of the concerts presented this year. As impressive as the music itself and the musical techniques, particularly the extended techniques of Tamura and Pruvost, was the control over the very sound of the instruments and the way the air moved in the room. Fujii's piano playing was impressive, and Orin's colorings were in perfect synch with her. Not only that, but the music was really quite humorous, Tamura letting out his comedic side with a section employing small instruments, including a pig squeeze toy that he used to great effect—the effect in aid of the music, and not as a side dish or gimmick. This was the first date of a North American tour for Kaze, and you should check them out if they're playing anywhere near you.

Finally, prog-rockers Magma closed out the festival with a set of bombastic fusion. Apparently, many people liked it.

So that was FIMAV 2015. As I said, one of the best, if not the best FIMAV in my experience. I'm already looking forward to 2016.

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