Monday, October 7, 2013

Preview/Contest: X Avant VIII

X Avant VIII: This Is Our Music

October 11–20, 2013 @ The Music Gallery

The Music Gallery's annual festival takes its mandate — bringing boundary-pushing music from around the world to our city while also putting the best local talent on a larger stage — and compresses it to seven concerts over ten days. Claiming "urban abstract music" as its theme, the festival has been curated by Artistic Director David Dacks to mix and mingle the Music Gallery's pop, jazz, classical and world music programming streams in bold new ways.

Tickets for all shows are discounted with advance purchase, cheaper yet for MG members, and there's an all-in festival pass available for maximum savings. Here's a look at what's on tap:

Quartetski + the Gordon Grdina Trio

Friday October 11 @ The Music Gallery. Tickets $20 Regular / $10 Member / $15 Advance

Montréal's Quartetsky are presenting a version of Stravinski's "Rite of Spring" that's probably unlike any heard before. This foundational piece of New Music, bringing dissonance to the masses, is now widely played by the stuffiest, most polite orchestras — but this ensemble strips it down to a rockband-sized combo and plays it with enough improved imprecision to remind us that this music starts riots.

That should be well-matched with Vancouver's Gord Grdina (guitar and oud), who keeps busy in a variety of groups. His eponymous trio, mixing free-form improvisation and Arabic classical music, opens the night.

Morton Feldman's String Quartet No. 2 featuring the FLUX Quartet

Saturday October 12 @ The Music Gallery. Tickets $30 Regular / $20 Member / $25 Advance

Billed as a "slow-motion rave", this piece will unfold over six hours. That's a lot of quietude and glacially slow musical development, so it's not surprising that the very idea evokes a certain kind of endurance-contest machismo. The flipside is that this will reward people who want to relax their mind and bliss out. Plus, having "a chillout room, video games, food vendors on site" acknowledges that this is something you don't have to sit still for throughout. Also on offer: a live broadcast on CIUT for those who want to take this in from the comfort of their own beanbag chairs. All told, this is probably either a must-see highlight or at the top of your "things to avoid" list — count me in with the former.

Charlemagne Palestine + Rose Bolton

Sunday October 13 @ The Music Gallery. Tickets $30 Regular / $20 Member / $25 Advance

Considered a "guru of trance music" and a contemporary of Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Phill Niblock, and Steve Reich, Charlemagne Palestine sounds like a unique character ("expect numerous stuffed animals and a full snifter of cognac at his side") but you can expect his music to drag you away from the here-and now towards somewhere less focused and more mystical.

Opening the night is Rose Bolton, who brings elements of electronic music to her chamber compositions — and who can sometimes be found behind the mixing desk instead of in the conductor's chair while her pieces play.

Not The Wind Not The Flag & William Parker + Eucalyptus

Thursday October 17 @ The Music Gallery. Tickets $20 Regular / $10 Member / $15 Advance

Perhaps the highlight of the festival, this show is a real treat, as it gives NTW,NTF — whom those in the know have long-declared to be world-class improvisers — a chance to go toe-to-toe with a bona fide legend. William Parker (who was recently in town playing with Ken Aldcroft) can entrance when playing alone on his double bass, but sparks should really fly when he improvises alongside Brandon Valdivia (percussion, flutes) and Colin Fisher (saxophone, guitar, percussion). Not to be missed.

Not the Wind, Not the Flag - [saxophone excerpt]

Not the Wind, Not the Flag - excerpt

Not The Wind, Not The Flag - [second piece, excerpt]

Opening the night is Brodie West's Eucalyptus. The project's roots as an exploratory calypso band are still there, but as the band readies their new album, you can hear an increasing complexity in the compositional structures. Of course, they still have plenty groovy jams you can bounce along to.

Eucalyptus - Kisses [Part 1]

Ensemble Supermusique

Friday October 18 @ The Music Gallery. Tickets $20 Regular / $10 Member / $15 Advance

This year's ensemble-in-residence is Montréal musique actuelle vets Ensemble Supermusique. Although there's a lot of musical savvy at hand, you should expect something more "punk, absurdist, DIY" than stuffy — they're even hosting a bring-your-own-instrument workshop jam on the afternoon after the show. Local improvised music fans will also recognize expat scene-builder Scott Thompson among their number.

The Beat: A Tribe Called Red & Nelson Tagoona + MAMA

Saturday October 19 @ BLK BOX. Tickets $25 regular / $15 member / $20 advance

Taking the Festival into another context (conceptually and physically), the action moves underneath The Great Hall for a Saturday night dance party with DJ crew A Tribe Called Red, "the vanguard of urban Aboriginal sound". The recent Polaris finalists will be joined by teenaged Nunavut throat singer/beat boxer Nelson Tagoona, and the night (co-presented with the ImagineNATIVE Film Festival) promises to be a full-on rager with multiple screens arranged throughout the space and the venue's big sound system throbbing at full tilt.

Gurpreet Chana + Alaniaris featuring Scott Good

Sunday October 20 @ The Music Gallery. Tickets $20 Regular / $10 Member / $15 Advance

Gurpreet Chana is pushing tabla music in new directions, and this night is billed as an experiment featuring "real time melodic tabla manipulation... using custom hardware & software programs, Ableton Live and MIDI controllers". Expect a multimedia spectacular from a musician who is equally comfortable in the concert hall or midcourt at halftime of a Raptors game.

Also on the bill is the improvised Balkan beat (file under: rebetiko/rock/jazz/improv/skronk) of Alaniaris, a collaboration between Michael Kaler (bass), Ken Aldcroft (guitar) and Mark Zurawinski (percussion), featuring Scott Good and additional musicians. Proclaiming themselves "the missing link between Albert Ayler, Dick Dale, and Black Flag", this should be a genuine hybrid culture party.


Courtesy of The Music Gallery, I have a pair of tickets to give away to Ensemble Supermusique on Friday October 18th. To enter, shoot me an email to, with "X Avant" in the title and your name in the body — or if it's easier, you can enter with a retweet on twitter or a "like" on facebook. I'll randomly draw a winner before I go to bed on Wednesday, October 16th.

N.B.: Hitting the "Like" button below is appreciated — and encouraged! — but does not constitute contest entry, given that I have no way of knowing who pressed it.

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