November 22, 2023

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Quebec-recorded, but ingeniously expressing its so-called foreign background with a band name that translates as non-native person, Allochtone uniquely mixes currents of electronica, rock, folk and free jazz. Created at the Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska music camp, 195 kilometres north of Quebec City, the group includes local percussionist/turntablist Rémi Leclerc; pianist André Pelletier from Saint-Pascal; guitarist Olivier D’Amours and accordionist Robin Servant from Rimouski; Montreal bassist Alexandre Dubuc and Parisian Cathy Heyden playing alto saxophone and bagpipe chanter.

Each musician also uses some version of electronic instruments giving the eight selections electro-acoustic timbres that are as much otherworldly as they are terrestrial. The result can range from strained reed squeals, piano clicks and tremolo accordion vibrations meeting voltage buzzes and blats or keyboard clusters and metallic guitar flanges establishing a linear theme which must balance on top of consistent electronic drones. Throughout, almost ceaseless percussion ruffs are as prominent as programmed oscillations and stop-start voltage buzzing. Leclerc’s vinyl manipulation also means that tracks like “rouge” interject snatches of bel canto singing and backwards running syllables into the electronic and percussion-dominated mix. The tracks aren’t all opaque however. The occasional calliope-like accordion squeeze and slide-whistle or split tone reed trill adds needed airiness at certain junctions.

As an exercise in group improvisation fusing multiple sonic streams, Plaît-il achieves its goals. But more indications of what each musician can contribute individually could have prevented some sequences from descending into near-impenetrable density and lightened the mood.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. eût-elle elle été 2. rouge 3. Comme une banana 4. Decomposée 5. Dans un cour à scrap 6. Je voudrais 7. Vivre 8. amoureux

Personnel: Cathy Heyden (alto saxophone, chanter, objects and effects); André Pelletier (piano, keyboards, melodica, programming); Robin Servant (accordion, electronics); Olivier D’Amours (guitar); Alexandre Dubuc (bass, electric bass, vocoder, electronics) and Rémi Leclerc (drums, percussion, wave drum, turntables, electronics)

–for The Whole Note October & November 2023