All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Profiles

902

[iks]: The Iksperience, Alive and Well

Pascal-Denis Lussier By

Sign in to view read count


Those of you who've had the opportunity to hear the Montreal-based contemporary jazz band [iks] have, I'm certain, immediately felt one of two things: nonplussed or absolute love; it's one of those bands. Those who've felt the former and awarded this band the necessary attention along with those who've instantly felt the latter are probably reading this and thinking, "Oh yeah. It's a real shame that the band disappeared."

Officially, despite the few years of absence around a brief return and the release of a little-known DVD recording of a 2007 live performance piece, (Le Cauchemar De L'horloger (Ora, 2008)), and given the five years since their 6th CD release, Inner Whatever (Ora, 2005), [iks] has never left the music scene albeit the necessary breaks imposed by life, studies, the desire to focus on different projects, and the shift in band members these entailed.

A major upset in the band's history occurred in the spring of 2008—what many assumed was the end of the group— when co-founder/bassist/composer, and electronics wizard Pierre Alexandre Tremblay officially announced what many already expected: he was leaving the group for a permanent move to Huddersfield, UK. Tremblay now teaches electroacoustic composition at the Centre for Research in New Music at the University of Huddersfield while pursuing other solo and group projects (ars circa musicæ being one of them), and also acts as producer and session bassist for a wide array of groups. He earned a Ph.D from Huddersfield in 2005 and was already spending most of his time there prior to and after, one of the reasons for the slowdown in the group's activities; his departure was nothing more than a formality at that point.

"It was a tough decision," recalls Tremblay, "but I was offered an opportunity which, I felt, I couldn't pass up, and although we discussed the possibility, realistically, the physical distance made it impossible for me to continue on with the group in any way. The only logical and fair thing to do was to cede entire leadership of the band over to Sylvain."

Tremblay is, of course, referring to guitarist/composer Sylvain Pohu, his long-time friend and collaborator with whom he founded [iks] and the Ora music label in 1996. They still own and manage Ora together, and although the Tremblay/Pohu dynamic is no longer a part of [iks], the two continue to play and record as a duo—under the name, de type inconnu—whenever they can get together; they plan to release an album soon.

"Sylvain and I are continually in touch, and I'm still there for the band, but mostly in spirit," says Tremblay. "It was never my band, it was always our band; now it's his. I trust and respect whatever direction he chooses to take."

It's no coincidence that Tremblay wants this to be clear. Based on personalities and the roles assumed by each—Tremblay acted as Artistic Director—it was easy for fans to be mislead into thinking that Tremblay was the sole leader and thus, easier still to believe that his departure announced the band's demise. However, after an adjustment period, Pohu, a highly gifted and, in my opinion, shamefully overlooked guitarist, has taken full control, sincerely proving otherwise. [iks] is wholly back in action. The band has already given a series of concerts in 2010, and indeed, having attended two of these, I can attest that the essence of [iks] is still very much alive and healthy.

It's true that Tremblay was a major element in the group, his infectious, unyielding approach and staunch devotion to music rarely paralleled, but his departure has a plus in that these same traits are now more evident in Pohu as well—albeit the clear difference in approach—as he assumes his new role as leader and Artistic Director of the group. At their "unofficially official" re-launch concert given in December '09 to a small gathering of devout listeners, I quickly learned to set aside my disappointments in regards to Tremblay's departure, for, as true fans know all too well, changes are an inherent part of [iks], and [iks] has always known how to embrace change. Other than Tremblay and Pohu, none of the seven albums produced so far have featured the same line up.

The "New" [iks] I witnessed had far more electronic gadgets than I recalled, delving slightly more into live-sound processing. That isn't to say that they are drifting away from their organic, improvisational approach to music making; the purity and integrity of individual creativity remains uncompromised—their music still emerges from real instruments and lives in the "now," always a reflection of the moment, and that's true whether live or in the studio. Therefore, their music is sometimes crude, occasionally awkward, but it is always brilliantly honest. And because of this, called upon to describe [iks] using one quick "sound bite," that phrase would still have to be: Rebellion without the angst. In one word: Art.

A New Album for Spring 2011

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool Profiles
Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool
by Arthur R George
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland Profiles
Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland
by Charles Suhor
Published: September 2, 2018
Read Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018 Profiles
Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 17, 2018
Read Remembering Tomasz Stanko Profiles
Remembering Tomasz Stanko
by AAJ Staff
Published: July 29, 2018
Read SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In Profiles
SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In
by Arthur R George
Published: July 19, 2018
Read Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night Profiles
Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night
by Arthur R George
Published: July 2, 2018
Read "Savoy Records: From Newark To The World" Profiles Savoy Records: From Newark To The World
by Jordan Levy
Published: February 6, 2018
Read "Bob Dorough: 1923-2018" Profiles Bob Dorough: 1923-2018
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 26, 2018
Read "Cecil Taylor: 1929-2018" Profiles Cecil Taylor: 1929-2018
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 7, 2018
Read "Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night" Profiles Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night
by Arthur R George
Published: July 2, 2018
Read "The Jazz Corner's Lois Masteller Makes It Happen" Profiles The Jazz Corner's Lois Masteller Makes It Happen
by Gloria Krolak
Published: February 21, 2018