We spoke to Montréal artists Félix Gourd and Simon Chioini about their new musical collaboration that will be premiered in Canada at NVA next October 19.
How did Musique Nouvelle start—what is the story of this project?
Felix: Simon and I have been collaborating for several years on different projects. We met in the percussion ensemble of the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal. Subsequently I turned to studies in visual arts and he continued in electroacoustic composition at the Conservatoire.
Simon: Before Musique Nouvelle, we collaborated on several audiovisual works intended to be shown on the web or in galleries. Felix created the visuals and I did the sound. The approach was quite plastic and experimental.
Simultaneously, I started to organize events with Acte Musique and Felix joined us to do the scenography for the shows. Then we wanted to start our own project as a duo.
F: Musique Nouvelle is born from our desire to present a more concrete audiovisual project as part of MUTEK Montréal. We haven’t yet had the chance to perform in Montreal for the moment, but we were able to make our first show under the name Musique Nouvelle at MUTEK Mexico, sharing the main stage with Telefon Tel Aviv and Squarepusher!
S: In 2017 for Mexico it was still an A/V oriented project. This year in Buenos Aires, we were able to present the project in its purely musical form, with Félix and I performing together.
Tell us about your musical experiences before joining the project?
F: So, we both have a background in contemporary percussion. For my part I studied music since I was 9 years old. I learned the piano and then I studied percussion. I completely abandoned music in university to focus on visual arts (video, 3D, installation, digital art). After 5 years of exploration leading to several projects related to so called “digital” arts—and always in close connection with music and sound art—I had an intense craving to return to music . It was last year, just before our set in Mexico City, that I announced to Simon that I wanted to change my role in Musique Nouvelle and to make it a music duo rather than an A/V project
S: For my part, I have been experimenting in the music scene for several years and through many projects. I composed electroacoustic works that I was able to present at festivals, some of which were released—Compositions 012-015 on Where To Now? for example. Following that, the Montreal underground scene initially allowed me to create completely abstract music, then it became more and more “functional”. This is where DJ Voilà is born. A kind of artistic identity that allows me to make the music I want without worrying about tagging it under a certain genre. The name is a bit ironic after all, since even though I sometimes DJ at parties as DJ Voilà, the music I produce under this alias is pretty “alternative” I think.
What are your musical influences?
F: I will speak for myself. I am fascinated by synthetic music. I really like the work of Bernard Parmegiani as well as the sound synthesis pieces of Pierre Schaeffer. As for the more direct influences, the techno influences, to name a few: I would say Autechre, Aphex Twin, Pacou, Steve Bicknell, Robert Hood, Blawan and Lady Starlight.
S: At this level, Felix and I have a lot of overlap I think, even if we like to argue from time to time about some artists!
But there’s certainly the composers of the electroacoustic avant-garde and the pioneers of techno. I would add for my part, specifically for Musique Nouvelle, artists like Second Woman, Objekt, and Lanark Artefax who have received a lot of attention in recent years. Labels like Chain Reaction and The Bunker New York. I admit that my knowledge of techno in general is quite limited. I bathe in experimental music most of the time.
In terms of production, what technologies do you use to produce your sets (gear, workflow, etc.)?
F: Since we took this direction, we’ve eliminated computers from our live set. Without going into details, I think we felt the need to limit our relationship to screens in our creation process.
For now I use a drum machine and a modular synthesizer that I built during the last year.
S: For my part I have a good sampler, small tabletop synthesizers that are widespread these days, and pedals effects. Our set up is super simple, and despite everything we have difficulties limiting ourselves when we play, and not add too much!
Basically, our approach is very improvised. We have no recorded track so far, so nothing to reproduce live. We known more of less how our set begins, then we follow the “vibe”.
What inspires you in the Montreal scene? Where do you stand in it?
S: There are so many interesting things happening! On my side, it’s the experimental scene that has always attracted me the most, and I am happy to have been able to participate not only as an artist, but also by organizing series of concerts at the Conservatoire, with Acte and recently with an organization called Access Codes.
In addition to more intimate evenings with hyper-talented local artists, the more “institutionalized” scene is also interesting. We have MUTEK, Akousma, SAT, Phi Center, Eastern Bloc. It’s overflowing!
And finally I have a lot of affection for n10.as! I love this radio, it’s really a unifying space. Same thing with La Rama. Best record store in town!
F: The underground electronic music community in Montreal is very inspiring and motivating. The events at La Plante, La Sala Rossa and Casa, and the after-hours at the Beaubien/Parc crossroad. For my part I think I approached this scene more through partying than creation at first. It’s more recently that I had the desire to be part of it as an artist.
Montreal is a culturally rich city in which the electronic music scene is ubiquitous. We are not in the history books of techno, house, jungle or drum’n’bass like Berlin, Chicago, Detroit and London, but there are many very talented electronic music artists in Montreal, and who are exported around the world. The scene is just too small. Maybe it’s still nascent? In any case that’s what I hope!
You presented this project to MUTEK Argentina and MUTEK Mexico, what did these experiences teach you? How did you find the crowds in these cities?
F: Firstly, the project was very different in Mexico than in Buenos Aires as described above. In both cases these experiences were extremely motivating. I think they’ve allowed us to realize that this universe is accessible to us and that we could very travel a little with this project. This is our intention, but we are planning a release for the end of the fall.
S: The MUTEK team is exceptional and we thank them for trusting us for these two experiences. The public of Mexico is incredible! I did not expect to find myself in front of 2000-3000 people for our first show! I keep a very fond memory of that. Same thing for Buenos Aires, where people were super friendly.
What is the relationship between sound and visual aesthetics in Musique Nouvelle, knowing that Felix, you have a career as a visual artist as well?
F: The way I see it is that Musique Nouvelle has been very much associated with the visual aesthetics of my Félix Félix Gourd Gourd project. At this level, we are still searching for our identity. What is certain is that, for the moment we abandoned the visual aspect to be able to focus on the sound aspect. It’s called Musique Nouvelle (new music) after all! We would like to deliver the best of both of us on a musical level, so we have to devote all our time to music. Maybe we’ll come back later with a visual proposal. I do the staging and scenography for other musicians (Milk & Bone, Cri, Yes Mccan), it could very well be that we decide to incorporate a scenographic visual aspect in a near future. But it will have to be something original, probably closer to lighting than video.
Is there an ideal presentation context for this project, if so which one (club, rave, museum, etc)?
S: It’s still a recent project, but quickly Felix and I realized that it was intended to be played loud in front of a large audience. As it stands, it’s rave music! But we try to integrate more subtleties in there. Through our sessions in the studio, we also came across more abstract, minimal or even ambient moments. We could adapt, eventually, to other contexts.
F: We see Musique Nouvelle as a versatile project. For now, the set we have—as Simon called it in Buenos Aires— is “big room techno”. But we would also like to make more ambient as well as experimental sets. In short, we want to explore several avenues and make as much music as possible!
What are you planning for the NVA event of October 19th?