Alien8 Recordings is releasing the studio recordings from the trio of David Kristian on EMS VCS-3 synthesizer, Sam Shalabi on guitar and oud, and Alexandre St-Onge on upright bass. The material on this recording was recorded at David Kristian’s Mermaid Room during the winter 1998-99.
Alien8 Recordings has released 4 full-length CDs with David Kristian (Cricklewood, Woodworking: Cricklewood Remixes, Beneath the Valley of the Modulars, and Room Tone) and a split CD with Sian. Sam Shalabi is a member of both Molasses and Shalabi Effect, as well as close to a dozen other projects. He is hands down Montreal’s busiest improviser. Following this trio release, Sam’s main project, Shalabi Effect will release the follow up to their very successful debut double CD. Alexandre St-Onge is also a member of Shalabi Effect and he appeared on Fly Pan Am’s first record. He has also released a solo CD for Alien8 Recordings entitled Image/Négation and a second solo release for Switzerland’s Namskeio label.
The sound of these three musicians is a mixture of electronics with bowed bass and prepared guitar and oud. The results are quite impressive. Many may consider it unlikely that such a combination of instruments could successfully blend into something interesting and enjoyable. However, a precedent may have been set by projects like Otomo Yoshihide’s I.S.O. and his Cathode release, not to mention a number of Europeans who are blending electronics with their free jazz and avant-garde music, to an extent not yet seen here in North America. The trio presents a rather unique sound and the instruments blend beautifully together. At times it is reminiscent of Euro improvisers such as Polweschel 2; a gentler Konk Pack or AMM come to mind.
On pieces like Dirt Well, Building a Rope and My Name is Lemuel, Kristian keeps the electronics quite sparse and in the mix, with Alexandre St-Onge providing much of the track’s texture by bowing his upright bass, and at times Sam is doing the same on oud and guitar. The Heart of a Mouse features Kristian using a lot of sounds similar to those found on his Alien8 debut, Cricklewood, a tribute to Louis and Bebe Barron’s soundtrack for the sci-fi classic, The Forbidden Planet. Another track that really stands out in terms of its shape is Insistent Falls; Kristian is playing with repetitive sounds that swell in and out of the piece every 20-30 seconds, with Sam and Alex layering the track with oud and bass drones. This track really boasts how well this trio actually performs and listens to each other. The sounds Kristian is employing are not far off from what you would expect to hear on records by Mika Vainio or Ryoji Ikeda.
The trio performed in the winter of 1998 opening up for Loren MazzaCane Connors and godspeed you black emperor! at the hotel2tango and again there in late spring with Martin Tétreault and Monstre. The trio surprised many people, sounding like they had lots of experience performing together, when in fact they had performed live on only two occasions. The only problem with this project live was the lack of silence available in live situations; this was one of driving forces that sent these guys into the studio. We will try and persuade this trio to do another live show to celebrate this release, but all of the members have become incredibly busy in other projects and in Kristian’s case, working as a sound designer.