Today’s Sounds: Bernard Gagnon

A slice of Montreal synthesizer music past with Bernard Gagnon’s Musique Électronique 1975–1983, a new track by Hercules and Love Affair and some apocalyptic rawk in a video by L.A. gals Deap Vally.


Bernard Gagnon, Musique Électronique 1975–1983 (Tenzier)

Bernard Gagnon has participated in almost every fringe music scene in Quebec since the 1960s, when he played in Gandharva, a speed-psych band. After studying with Iannis Xenakis in the early ’70s, his group Mergélèpe-Guorismogue joined Montreal’s Atelier de musique expérimentale, promoting early musique actuelle with Yves Bouliane and Robert M. Lepage, later playing with Jean Derome in Stylo. He was in the punky Blew Genes with Alan Lord, and electronic music ensemble Metamusik with Kevin Austin.

Between 1975 and 1983, Gagnon spliced together a series of compositions in the McGill electronic music studio. This was the pre-Schulich Hall days, when the studio was located on the fifth floor of the Strathcona Building, the nightly bat sightings perhaps influencing the music’s ominous nocturnal feel. The LP provides not only a period survey of analogue and early digital synthesis hardware, but seven varied and creative tracks.

Electronic sounds have evoked the foreboding and enigmatic since Louis and Bebe Barron’s Forbidden Planet soundtrack. “Gwendoline Descendue!” continues the tradition of bringing crime fiction into electro-acoustic music. Composed using early Moog modules and various electro-instruments handcrafted by pioneer Hugh Le Caine, the piece won prizes in both CAPAC and Radio-Canada competitions. Named after a 1940s comic character and inspired by serial killer Son of Sam and Lennon murderer Mark David Chapman, it is an episodic work that climaxes with a swarm of bees.

A nightmare of a different sort is conjured up by “Dictée,” a recreation of the dreaded spelling and grammar quiz popular in French schools. A single phrase, “Le boa mange Léo,” is looped and treated, with sounds of a pen scrapping a desk echoing the student’s mental anguish.

“Gololo-Mashta” manipulates and ring-modulates snippets of a quartet of clarinet, guitar, bass and drums into a manic march of pounding intensity.  “Sea Lunch” for ARP 2600 synth could be a bubbling underwater soundtrack, and three short pieces for Synclavier illustrate Gagnon’s experiments on this early computer music system. Gagnon’s overall aesthetic remains similar across technologies, a dark pulse and continuously shifting textures pervading all pieces.

Vinyl fetishists will appreciate the 180-gram pressing and cover art dominated by a duo of dizzying collages by Félix Morel, whose themes oddly match the content of the disc.

Record launch at Espace Pop (5587 Parc) on Saturday, Oct. 27, 7:30 pm. Meet the composer, view rare documents and listen to tracks from the LP and other unreleased material.


Hercules & Love Affair, “Release Me”

From the forthcoming installment of K7!’s DJ-Kicks series, out Nov. 13, this is a new track by Andy Butler (aka NYC’s Hercules and Love Affair), in conjunction with DJ Whitney Fierce. Butler calls it a cross between Stock Aitken and Waterman and Manchester’s Hacienda sound.
Hercules And Love Affair – Release Me (DJ-Kicks) by !K7 Records


Deap Vally, “End of the World”

L.A. gals Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards deliver some depraved nihilism rawk here. The single is out officially next month via Island/Communion, who will also release Deap Vally’s debut LP in 2013.

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