The Montreal electronic experimental music scene is thriving these days with a variety of artists who are gaining international recognition thanks to the arrival of festivals and events that are tailor made for their brand of talent.
The particular atmosphere and the friendliness of this city has bred some incredible talents from people like David Kristian, Martin Tétreault, Sam Shalabi, Alexandre St-Onge and the list goes on. But most of all, I find that the uniqueness of this city lies in its ability to facilitate the meeting of artists.
I can go to a “musique actuelle” show, meet musicians and eventually work with them, and then I can go to Mutek and the same thing will happen. I do believe this is particular to Montreal. Here it seems everybody knows everybody; and creatively speaking, that is very motivating. The exchange that takes place between musicians from different electronic backgrounds is probably one of the biggest factors shaping this new “Montreal sound”.
Each of these musicians/sound artists are busy with many different projects in and around the Montreal area. Check out the weblinks for more information on that particular artist or label.
Martin Tétreault is constantly navigating between Montreal, Europe and Japan, working with the likes of Xavier Charles, Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M., Diane Labrosse, Janek Shaeffer and so on. He recently curated the Turntable Hell Tour which was organized by the London Musicians Collective.
Sam Shalabi is a guitar and oud improviser and is probably the busiest musician in Montreal with projects such as the Shalabi Effect, the Kristian Shalabi St-Onge trio, Molasses and GSYB.
Alexandre St-Onge is an electro-acoustic composer and improviser utilizing bowed double bass and computer applications to create his music; he is also busy at home and abroad.
Tim Hecker is an experimental techno artist who has released material on Force Inc under the moniker Jetone and Alien8 Recordings offshoot Substractif under his own name. He is very present on the Montreal scene, and has recently performed in Berlin at the Transmediale festival.
Mitchell Akiyama is an experimental techno artist who is also at the helm of Montreal’s Intr_version label and has released material on Substractif.
Deadbeat is an experimental techno artist, who is also involved with Montreal software synth developers Applied Acoustics Systems Inc. He has released material with Hautec, Revolver and Intr_version.
David Kristian is an experimental electro and soundscape artist who is renowned for his mastery of analogue synthesis. He is now working with Applied Acoustics Systems Tassman soft synth. He has recently been devoting his time to creating sound design and music for TV, and films such as Karim Hussain’s Subconscious Cruelty, The City Without Windows and Ascension. David has released material with several labels including Alien8 Recordings, Leaf, Worm Interface and Lo Recordings.
Akufen is an experimental electro and tech house producer who has released material on labels such as Perlon, Hautec and Force Inc. He has been active on the Montreal music scene for over a decade.
Ælab have been busy presenting their various projects at the Media Lounge of the New York museum of contemporary art (New York 2000), the Dutch Electronic arts festival (V2_, Rotterdam,Netherlands 2000), Mutek (Montreal 2000 & 2001) Ælab have released material with both the Oral and the Mutek labels.
More artists such as Pheek, Mateo Murphy, Alexandre Burton, Julien Roy, Monstre, Lateef the Quadraceptor, and John Ascencio definitely have a hand at shaping the sounds coming out of Montreal and their contribution cannot be understated.
As far as events around the city are concerned, we’ll start with Mutek.
Mutek, has become a standard by which the industry measures itself, and this, only 2 years of existence and the hard work of Alain Mongeau, Eric Mattson and their team. Artists from everywhere want to participate in this festival, it is a meeting place for all musicians with an interest in new electronic music/new technology. The atmosphere is conducive to the exchange of ideas and collaborations between artists are made possible.
The Silophone project was created by two artists who call themselves “the user”; Thomas McIntosh, architect and Emmanuel Madan, composer are best known for their “symphony for dot matrix printers”. Using an old grain silo, microphones and speakers were lowered in one of the cylinders which acted as an incredible echo chamber; local and international artists were invited to partake with a project of their own design, each using the silo in their own unique way. The result was a year of amazing concerts such as Francisco Lopez’s memorable performance in October 2000 and Carsten Nicolai’s installation during Mutek 2001 to name a few.
Applied Acoustics Systems Inc., is a Montreal based company that has developed Tassman, an innovative software synthesizer based on physical modeling, which means everything from analogue modular synthesis components to acoustic elements such as plates and reeds can be mixed and matched to create realistic, yet never heard before sounds. What sets Tassman apart from other softsynths is the sheer quality and realistic texture of the end results. The Tassman was honored with Electronic Musician magazine’s coveted Editor’s choice award in 2001.
Intr_version, is a label run by Mitchell Akiyama which has been showcasing the talents of Pheek, Jetone, Deadbeat and Akiyama himself.
No Type is a virtual label where Montreal artists David Turgeon and Aimé Dontigny showcase their talent and that of other fellow musicians such as James Shidlowsky, Magalie Babin, etc. No type has recently released their first non virtual compilation “The Freest of Radicals.”
Oral, is a label run by Eric Mattson, whom, aside from being involved with Mutek, finds time to release experimental non-lyrical electronic music and is very active producing events such as VoltAA. He is without a doubt the most enthusiastic ambassador of all spectrums of electronic music. Oral relies on its roster artists which is comprised of Ælab, Akufen, Herri Kopter, Suna and Nancy Tobin.
Alien8 Recordings run by Gary Worsley and Sean O’Hara has been working relentlessly and consistently to discover and release the work of maverick Montreal artists and has a strong presence on the local and international scene. Dedicated to various forms of electronic music, they have made it possible for musicians to perform on a more regular basis. They have just created a new sub-label called Substractif on which you will find artists such as Mitchell Akiyama and Tim Hecker.
And last but certainly not least is Le Navire Night, a Radio Canada (CBC) radio program which has been broadcasting experimental music every Sunday night under the watchful “ears” of Hélène Prévost, who has to her credit music for the stage, documentaries and advertising. She has taught and undertaken research in auditory perception at the Faculty of Music of Université de Montréal, where she also studied composition. Radio has been for many years her principal medium of exploration.