Recent music from Canada

Three items of new music from Canada (all arrived 20/12/2021).

Accessible and user-friendly art music from Tania Gill Quartet on Disappearing Curiosities (NO LABEL TJG001), led by pianist Tania Gill of Ontario…they mostly play a form of melodic and upbeat jazz, composed by Gill and played by Lina Allemano (trumpet), with Rob Clutton (bass) and Nico Dann (drums). Tania Gill is evidently well-informed about climate change, and some of her titles and tunes allude to aspects of this very global problem, exhibiting sympathy with those who protest it. If you live in Toronto, you may have encountered Gill in the Brodie West Quartet, See Through, or Deep Dark United. Gill has a gift for unexpected changes, intervals, and clever melodies, and I suspect it’s good fun for the musicians to play.

Eldritch Priest from Vancouver has made Omphaloskepsis (HALOCINE TRANCE HTRA026), a single 54-minute piece which I think is composed and played entirely by himself. We might describe it as a form of electroacoustic composition with much emphasis on the electric guitar; think of it as a very discursive guitar solo, with the phrases stumbling out in fits and starts, with some accompaniment from a virtual digital backing band. Digital treatments allow for some queasy alterations in sound, producing rather unnatural and nauseating tones. I have no idea if this lengthy discourse was composed or improvised, or even if it matters; the general effect is one of severe disjunctiveness, and it’s nigh-impossible to follow the train of thought of the player and you have no idea where it’s going to turn next. It’s impossible to get a purchase on this abstracted and slippery music, which deflects your normal expectations at every turn. Apparently this is entirely in line with Priest’s intentions; the press note speaks warmly of his “disorienting” music, using terms like “wayward” and “restless” to give some indication of its protean ways. Priest is also a scholar and a university professor, in which position he muses about (and publishes books on) experimental music and philosophy. In 2013 he wrote a book called Boring Formless Nonsense, and the title of today’s record is a Greek word for “navel-gazing”. The Arditti Quartet, and the Quatuor Bozzini, are two Canadian ensembles who have been brave enough to tackle his abstruse compositions.

Very accomplished harp playing from Ellen Gibling on her The Bend In The Light (NO LABEL). She plays traditional Irish folk tunes and dance music, alternating with compositions by friends and fellow musicians. Gibling was born in Halifax in Canada, and studied classical music at first, but it was after moving to Montreal that her interest in Irish folk music started to grow, leading to a visit to the University of Limerick in 2019. We heard Gibling before in 2020 as part of the New Hermitage group, but that was quite a different proposition – acoustic improvisation in the service of an eco-dystopian idea. No improvisation here though, nor can we say that Gibling is really adding anything of her own to the tunes – she’s not a post-modernist interpretative-folkster like Sharon Kraus, Cath and Phil Tyler, or Jacken Elswyth. Interestingly, Gibling has settled in the same territory as the Mi’kmaq people, a First Nation population of the Northeastern woodlands of Canada, and sales from this album will be donated to help a music program in Eskasoni.