Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Preview/mixtape/contest: X Avant X

X Avant X

October 15-18, 2018

This year, the Music Gallery's marquee festival is celebrating its tenth go-round — but this just happens to be an anniversary within an anniversary as the MG itself is celebrating its fortieth year. That means that this fiercely forward-looking festival is putting on its Janus mask to simultaneously reflect and celebrate. Concentrated into four nights (and without and offsite field trips this year), the programming manages to play past/present/future off each other in some crafty ways.

  • The opening concert (Thursday, October 15th) leads things off with CCMC, who invented the very notion of a "music gallery", and also pairing CCMC's Michael Snow with Casey Sokol, both founding members of the institution. And that's just a warm-up for Lori Freedman, playing a series of new works for clarinet — and pushing the instrument into new territory.
  • Friday (October 16th) sees a different sort of dialogue between past and present in MG Encore, for which curator Chelsea Shanoff has combed the archives to re-mount a series of compositions that saw their debuts at the Music Gallery. Allison Cameron and Martin Arnold, also known for their efforts in the improvising scenes, show off their compositional chops, while Ann Southam and Nic Gotham are remembered and celebrated through their works. There's a noteworthy ensemble of some of the city's finest players performing these, including the likes of Wesley Shen, Wallace Halladay and Dan Morphy. Expect an evening of chamber music at its least fusty.
  • New sounds move to the forefront with an avant-groove lineup on Saturday (October 17th), headlined by Tyondai Braxton (son of Anthony, and former Battles frontman) whose work should be well-complemented by the dancefloor/deep listening fusions of New Chance (a/k/a Vic Cheong of Healing Power Records). The electronics will be contrasted with a different sort of deep groove by Pantayo's kulintang (Philippine gong) set to start things off.
  • Perhaps the boldest nudge for inclusion into the MG's realm of the new and experimental comes on Sunday (October 18th), with Mississauga-based Keita Juma bringing his electro/bounce tracks to the pews. Brooding but electrically simmering, KJ is also an MC that can bring it live. The festival will be closed out with local art-rock darlings Absolutely Free, whose electronic textures and rhythmic thrum should reverberate quite interestingly in the sanctuary — they're promising "lost material + new material + borrowed material" plus a collaboration with Sandro Perri.

Besides the concerts, two other events are at the heart of the festival. Thursday's Artistic Direction panel matches current A.D. David Dacks with his predecessors in a reflection on how the Music Gallery has embraced its mandate and evolved with the times. Again reflecting the past/future duality, that will be balanced by Saturday's Town Hall, which exists as a forum for the wider MG community to think about the challenges ahead and wonder how a beloved institution can remain nimble, viable and relevant.


The Music Gallery has been getting ready for the festival by soliciting some mixtapes from some of the X Avant artists, and there's piles and piles of stuff to dig through already from Vic Cheong, Allison Cameron and Pantayo. They also asked me to contribute, and digging through my recordings from past festivals, I ended up gravitating towards some of the noisier moments, which I've compiled into this for your listening pleasure.

[If the mixtape has disappeared from soundcloud, it is also here.]


You can check out the details of all the festival's events here, and the MG has a user-friendly/wallet-friendly online ticketing system that makes it easy to book shows in advance. Advance tickets are also available at Soundscapes, and as always, Music Gallery members get a sweet discount. The talk and panel are free, and you could see the whole festival with a pass on sale for $40.


But if that weren't enough, complements of the Music Gallery, I have a pair of tickets to give away to Friday's MG Encore show.

To enter, shoot me an email to mechanicalforestsound@gmail.com, with "contest" in the title and your name in the body. I'll randomly draw a winner on Friday, October 16th at noon.

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