CANADA TOUR DE BRAS RECORDS MICROCIDI 014 D.C.D. (2019)
Collaborating with free jazz maestro Evan Parker on your debut c.d. must surely be the ultimate dream date for any prospective group of improvisors. Well, GGRIL did just that very thing back in 2012 on the imaginatively-titled “Avec Evan Parker” on the Tour de Bras imprint. The vinylized “Combines” followed a year later on the same label and now some kinda magnum opus type thing entitled “Façons” (“Ways”) has followed in its wake. But first, a little background GGRIL history, or should I say Grand Groupe Régional d’Improvisation Libérée. This, in their own words, “Post Constructionalist Village Band” came together in a small town in East Quebec, Canada and has been active since 2007 with large scale improv/contempo compositions their main forté.
With the double set, each piece is written by a different composer and with that, each one hosts a different guest improviser, adding his/her not inconsiderable weight/voice to the resultant mix. Written by drummer/composer Isaiah Ceccarelli “Organon” (shades of Wilhelm Reich and Kate Bush’s cloud busting activities here…) blurts out of the traps with a deep/dark well of sound in which GGRIL’s eight core members (on winds and strings) are augmented by an extra nonet which includes U.S. alto saxist Caroline Kraabel as guest. Their vigorous bowing, red-faced exhales and timely clattering evoking one of those planetary chaos events found scattered through Sun Ra’s “Strange Strings” project.
In stark, chalk’n’cheese contrast, the brief “Sur La Genoux” scored by French clarinettist Xavier Charles with the tenor sax of guest Ingrid Laubrock is more of a ‘listening experience’ in the quiet zone. Tiny measured gestures from the fourteen-strong ork are in evidence here which tap in to the more restrained passages of major label (!) Tony Oxley and/or The People Band in their prime. The closing six-parter “Local Fixations” comes courtesy of Brighton’s very own avant saxist John Butcher (sitting in here on tenor and soprano), was premiered with him in April 2018 at Rimouski, Quebec. It’s much more of an open house for improvisation and mystery note exploration than its companions and its contents appear to alternate between tightly wound string vs. horn dialogue and more blood ‘n’ thunder-fuelled splurges. The major culprit for all that spilt claret (if I’ve read the credits correctly) being a certain Robert Bastien with his violent brass-knuckled e. guitar dis-assemblage on “Ice Pill Sabotage” and “Sharp Eyed Gods”. An industrial-strength power/distortion gambit reaching truly jaw-dislocating proportions at the most unexpected moments. PIL’s Keith Levine and his ‘sheet metal guitar’ of times past is reduced to crinkly tin foil set next to this. This time round, six extras, in a cordoned off area and supplied with suitable ear protection are employed on accordion, violin, clarinet, violincello, classical guitar and percussives.
In closing, a tip of the chapeau must go out to the charmingly quirky artwork of Charles Etienne Brochu; where one can clearly trace the Residents’ “Eyeball Man” back to his Cro Magnon origins.