Misc Pull Montreal Jazz into the Future on 'Partager l'ambulance'
Published Feb 01, 2021From Maynard Ferguson through Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones, Quebecois jazz has forever paraded a distinct and splendid sound: jaunty, buoyant and groove-filled, but always somehow sophisticated. But with Misc, that's where the comparisons end. On the follow-up to their 2016 self-titled LP, the Montreal trio — formerly Trio Jérôme Beaulieu — pull together eight tracks and 42 minutes of varying sound, mood, rhythms and instrumentation to craft an album that encapsulates the 'anything goes' spirit of turntablism and funk, while running it through the bubbly scope of their provincial style of jazz.
According to the band, the LP's title, Partager l'ambulance (Sharing the Ambulance, for the Anglophones out there), refers to the "choices we have to either address the crisis or ignore it and risk severe consequences in the future." Although whether the "crisis" Misc is referring to is environmental or health-related (or both) isn't clear, the crawling, churning, end-of-days music that identifies tracks like "Petite apathie" and "Mad" confer that either are equally terrifying. As each piece plays off of the mostly-skin drum beats, proggy bass and wandering keys, the trio fill in a ton of space with grumbling synth, samples of people talking and tempered effects to create glacier sheets of sound that never interfere with the trio's late-night jams.
Opening track "Le preacher" unfolds brilliantly, starting off with the jazziest beat you'll hear all album, as a smoky piano plays a standard blues scale, before a strident vocal sample unleashes bouts of black key hammers and rapid-fire bass noodling. From there, the album rarely returns to its wrought ways as album standout "Q-Line" moves into dank, crawling Godspeed You! Black Emperor territory. Their gorgeous cover of Montreal brethren Sunns' 2018 track "X-ALT" (cleverly called "X-ALT (Alt Version)"), captures the tension and angular nature of the original, with pianist Jérôme Beaulieu matching Sunns' vocalist Ben Shemie's reaching melodies. The closing track, "Superman se pointera pas," brings the album full circle. The throbbing, atmospheric piece, courtesy of Simon Pagé's rumbling acoustic bass and William Côté's crackling drum sound, builds before transfiguring into a yearning, honest piano ballad that rises from the muddy racket.
On Partager l'ambulance, Misc work hard in moving their craft — and the idea of sprightly Quebec jazz — forward, keeping their ears open to modern sounds and their minds open to even more resourceful ways of delivering them. (Bonsound)