It was a match made in heaven, or rather on earth, at last year's 20th Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville. Five vocal artists on one stageDutch Jaap Blonk, Japanese Koichi Makigami, Canadian sound poet Paul Dutton, Englishman Phil Minton, and German new music singer David Mosswas indeed one of the highlights of the '03 Victoriaville Festival. Only mad vocalist Mike Patton was missing.
These five men had never performed together on one stage, though they have worked with dozens of improvising musicians. Blonk has collaborated with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Chicagoan percussionist Michael Zerang and performed with Makigami. Makigami has collaborated with cellist Erik Friedlander and with John Zorn, and he was a guest artist on David Moss' releases. Moss was the lead singer in the the last staging of Carla Bley's Escalator over the Hill and duetted with Minton on his releases. Minton recorded with saxophonist John Butcher and pianist Simon Nabatov. Dutton wrote the liner notes to Minton's Dougnut In One Hand (FMP, 1996).
This hour long concert features these five distinctive vocalists improvising together with no leader and, as expected, with no ordinary songs. More tongue-in-cheek and, literally, vocal pyrotechnics. Each of them is a master of strange, bizarre and wacky vocal tricks, from singing quietly, humming an almost religious drone overtone on the aptly named "No Drone Rising" to imitating doo-wop or opera singers and cartoon heroes, groaning, inventing alien languages and speaking in baby languages.
One track, "Six Cobbings," is dedicated to the late English visual poet Bob Cobbing, and as with all tracks is totally improvised. The tracks evolve and disintegrate in an instant, and finish abruptly. There are lots of jokes, as with the question in the opening track, "No Drone Rising." "What Makigami is trying to say..." is answered with a blizzard of gibberish noises. Blonk's "Quiet Neighbours Moaning" deliver shrieks, wild cries and moans that you would not want to hear from a nearby neighbor. Makigami's "Haiku Sonic" does not offer any intelligible haiku. And indeed it seems that Blonk's Dadaist spirit is the dominant one in this concert.
Funny and charming, with a bit of show-off boasting by all five vocalists, the only thing missing (except Patton) is the visual gymnastics of the five participants.
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