Artist: Castor & Compagnie
Songs: Ah! Les Beaux Jours + Beauté
Recorded at Array Space (Somewhere There presents), June 19, 2016.
If you are a believer in the "twenty-year" theory that after a couple decades nostalgia is transformed into influence, then Montréal's Castor et Compagnie may be in their perfect moment. Arising from Québec's fertile musique actualle scene, this project saw Joane Hétu bring together several key performers to set lyrics and poems to song-like structures. Given musique actualle's penchant for "rock déstructuré, jazz fragmenté, chansons éclatées, folklore réinventé, ambiances bruitistes, improvisations, nouvelles musiques d’ensemble, métissages des lutheries acoustiques et électroacoustiques", that saw the songs fragmented into all sorts of shapes, and what might start, for example, like a folk song with a refrain passed around from member to member could veer into static-burst stasis and/or a noise freakout.
That made the sonic bricolage sound entirely current, while Hétu's feminist poetics, ranging from the familiarity of a lover's particular odours to an appreciation of beauty as an accretion of imperfections, also remained both au courant yet radical. You could trace some lines and retrospectively see this as a hidden point of departure for a lot of sonic explorers, from groups using improvisation as a tool to deconstruct song-forms to experimental lyricists layering cabaret-style intimacies within noise-bursts. (In terms of the latter, locals Jooj sounded precisely like a lineal decendant of this band's work, to pick out just one example.) Inactive for quite some time since their mid-90's heyday, my understanding is that it was Cem Zafir who got the ball rolling on this mini-tour, imploring the group to head out to Hamilton for his Something Else! festival. It was an honour to get this spin-off show in T.O., but this music resonates deeply beyond just "creative music" circles. Hopefully this will reach out past our musical and cultural solitudes to be seen as a vital and living branch of our musical tree.