This post collects two previews written for Cult MTL. In honor of their upcoming 20th anniversary, I’ll be publishing a long overdue encomium to Suoni and to the Montreal experiment music community more broadly.
The word “radical” literally refers to a search for roots, and so it is fitting that Montreal’s self-proclaimed festival of “liberation music” celebrates its 15th edition by returning to its roots. Suoni consistently proves to be the anti-festival par excellence, a rich program spanning the spectrum of experimental, electronic, free jazz, punk, metal, psychedelic and new music, films and workshops across nearly a month of programming. The unadventurous should stay home, while seekers of challenging and provocative music will never be disappointed.
Founded by Mauro Pezzente (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and Kiva Stimac (Popolo Press), Suoni can still boast the most amazing programming (and the best posters), the right combination of tradition and innovation, of local flavour and international art forms. Part of being radical means creating your own roots, and so the three venues owned by Pezzente and Simac will be at the heart of the festival this year: Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent), la Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent) and la Vitrola (4602 St-Laurent). This guarantees intimate events, and also spotlights the immense and diverse talents of Montreal’s local arts communities while bringing them together with a who’s-who of radical music from around the globe. Performances from members of Howl! Arts, Xarah Dion (June 21, la Vitrola, 8:45 p.m., $10/$12), Jessica Moss (June 8, Casa del Popolo, 8:45 p.m., $8/$10) and the Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra (June 13, la Sala Rossa, 10 p.m., $10/$12), are only a few of the Montreal-centric evenings to grace this year’s edition.
Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis will be performing a solo show (June 5, la Sala Rossa, 9:15 p.m., $25), and if that wasn’t enough will return for a second concert backed by the stoner metal of Heavy Blanket and members of Godspeed (June 6, la Vitrola, 9:15, $15). Nuff said. Speaking of Godspeed, the Mile End Ladies’ String Auxiliary — which includes members of Godspeed, A Silver Mt. Zion and Hanged Up — returns from an extended hiatus. Their ensemble hasn’t received as much attention as some other affiliated acts, something that sorely needs rectifying, so don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the neighbourhood’s best kept secret (June 9, la Sala Rossa, 8:45 p.m., $12).
Montreal’s new music quartet Quatuor Bozzini will be joined by two of the most important living American composers, each characterized by vastly different approaches. Pauline Oliveros is known as a co-founder of the Deep Listening Institute, for her important contributions to the creation of the San Francisco Tape Music Center and Mills College’s renowned music program, and for her many decades of contemplative improvisation on the accordion, most recently utilizing a complex chain of multiple delays to create a blurred sense of time. Alvin Lucier is one of the great figures on the edge of contemporary composition and sound art, famous for his process work “I am Sitting in a Room.” (June 5, le Gèsu, 1202 Bleury, 7:45 p.m., $15 + June 7, la Sala Rossa, 8:30 p.m., $15).
Blevin Blectum, an alumna of Mills College and member of the pioneering sampler-based duo Blectum From Blechdom, will be transmitting her sci-fi inspired anti-groove (June 8, la Vitrola, 8:45 p.m., free), and Puce Mary’s power electronics will probably call for some earplugs (June 19, la Vitrola, 9:30 p.m., $10/$12). Those looking for more rock with their loud should look no further than legendary Dutch punk rockers and festival stalwarts the Ex (June 22, la Sala Rossa, 8:45 p.m., $20/$22).
That’s a tremendous variety of challenging music, representing the hybridity and autopoiesis Suoni is known for. But it wouldn’t be Suoni without jazz, and the 15th edition doesn’t fail to deliver the goods. Paal Nilssen-Love returns to Montreal with his 10-piece orchestra Large Unit for two nights showcasing Norway’s most powerful improvisers (June 20 & 21, la Sala Rossa, 9:15 p.m., $18/$22). Ken Vandermark, one of Chicago’s great musicians, will deliver a unique solo concert (June 19, Casa del Popolo, 9:15 p.m., $13/$15). But my number one pick goes to another Chicago player, currently based in Brooklyn but with a long affiliation with our great city: Matana Roberts. Her recent solo record River Run Thee is the best album of the year, so don’t sleep on this chance to see her powerful solo performance (June 7, Casa del Popolo, 8:45 p.m., $10/$12). ■
A casual glance at the Suoni per il Popolo programming might suggest a random grab-bag of weird music. This festival brings together a variety of experimental and avant-garde genres, including “free jazz, noise, electronica, turntable art, soundscapes, experimental rock and pop, musique actuelle and spoken word.” But what connects psychedelic folk with free improv, or ethereal ambient melodies with classical composition? At closer inspection, Suoni is a nexus point in which these diverse players and scenes overlap.
It’s also a very unique type of gathering, and is not only shaped by but could really only happen in Montreal. Its guiding spiritual principle of “liberation music” resonates with those whose dedication to their craft is inseparable from who they are, and hence retains an ethical dimension that has nothing to do with commercial art. Music for the people!
Now in its 14th year, Suoni began yesterday (June 4) and runs through June 22 at familiar haunts Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent) and la Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent), new venue la Vitrola (above El Gallego in the old la Elasticá space, 4602 St-Laurent) and beyond. Though the departure of artistic director Steve Guimond after eight years steering the ship is sad news, his final Suoni promises to be a great one.
Its programming can be a lot to sort through, so here are some good places to start:
June 8: An enormous night of experimental electronic music at la Sala Rossa, spanning dub, house, sound collage, ambient and minimal techno, featuring locals the H (Hobo Cubes + Noir), Ramzi, Event Cloak and many more. 8 p.m., $8
June 9: Saxophone improviser John Butcher is a Suoni regular, but this year we’re all in for something special. The staff at McGill have devised a means for the performers to modify sound in resonant spaces in real time, resulting in unprecedented acoustic possibilities (at 555 Sherbrooke W.). Also performing will be Montreal’s favourite guerrilla sound artists, Jen Reimer, Max Stein and Adam Basanta. 8 p.m., $10/$12
June 10: Don’t miss Die Like a Dog at la Sala Rossa — it’s been 12 years since their last performance. Previously a quartet, this now- trio consists of double bassist William Parker, percussionist Hamid Drake and reedman Peter Brötzmann, and they’re presenting some of the most powerful and rhythmically interesting free music around. 8 p.m., $25
June 12: Multi-instrumentalist Richard Skelton (A Broken Consort, Clouwbeck, etc) is one of my favourite artists, whatever moniker he’s using. Primarily working with guitar and violin, his haunting music is some of the most emotionally resonant being made today. Happening at Sala, this is not to be missed as he rarely performs, even in the U.K. Opening is the incomparable Philip Jeck. 8:30 p.m., $13/$15
June 14: Many new fans may have been drawn to Maica Mia upon hearing that Godspeed bassist Mauro Pezzente joined forces with the duo, but they stay for the beautiful vocals. Breakglass Studios (7250 Clark), 6 p.m., $15
Luckily they’re playing early, so you’ll still have time to catch psychedelic legends Bardo Pond at Sala later on. 8 p.m., $15
June 15: Kyle Bobby Dunn’s lovely minimal guitar and synth jams will slowly unfold while you float around the pool at Piscine Schubert (3950 St-Laurent). Bring your bathing suits. Seriously. 5:30 p.m., $15
June 16: More than two decades in, few can come close to the powerful music and perfect male/female vocal harmonies of Low. Montreal’s Big Brave will open, at Sala. Come get slow. 8:30 p.m., $20
June 20: Pete Swanson, half of the famed noise duo Yellow Swans, has been pumping out tough, techno-inspired noise jams in recent years, using modular synths and tape saturation. He plays Casa with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (of Tarantel) and le Révélateur (ex-Fly Pan Am/Pas Chic Chic’s Roger Tellier-Craig). 10 p.m., $13
To buy tickets and view the complete Suoni per il Popolo program, including free film screenings, Tools of the Trade workshops and more, click here