Quebec’s smaller cities sometimes spawn radical music. Michel Levasseur has produced 34 annual editions of the epic FIMAV festival in Victoriaville, while Éric Normand has created an extraordinarily active scene – complete with record label and improvising orchestra – even further afield in Rimouski. One of Normand’s ongoing collaborations is with Australian saxophonist/flutist Jim Denley: they first recorded together in a Rimouski quintet in 2010 on Transition de Phase. Plant, available as a beautifully packaged, limited-edition LP or a download, presents the two in a 2013 performance. If the title suggests organic growth, a first hearing suggests it’s a pun, linking garden and industrial plants.
If the combination of flute or saxophone and electric bass might suggest sparse work, that’s hardly the case here. There are dense, sustained sounds, whether alternating or layered, coming from Normand’s electric bass and Denley’s “field recordings” of a clothing factory. Whether playing flute or saxophone, Denley often focuses on the slow alternated notes and trills, sometimes sustained with circular breathing. Normand and the field recordings suggest the factory, Denley’s winds in the glade.
Together they create a kind of post-industrial pastoral in which the vibrating amplified strings and machinery ultimately fuse with Denley’s minimalist, gestural language, his flute sound almost a kind of first brush with music in a primeval forest. The result is an extended meditation on the nature and meaning of sound, its threats, codes and ambiguities transfigured into resonant repose.