Jean Derome

Canot-Camping: Expedition No. 4

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Jean Derome's previous large-scale project, Je Me Souviens, his tribute to George Perec, was a lot of fun. Canot-Camping is a whole different story, even though it uses a similar lineup of Ambiances Magnétiques musicians. This is a structured improvisation with a composed framework and a set of highly precise hand signals Derome uses to conduct the 11-piece ensemble (including himself). The music and subtitles are illustrative of a canoe camping trip, an activity the Derome family enjoys. Each interpretation of the piece constitutes a different "expedition." The piece had been staged three times between spring and fall of 2000, before it was recorded in the studio over three days in November -- hence the reference to "Expedition No. 4." The group was therefore well rehearsed and featured an all-star cast from the Ambiances Magnétiques collective and label. Their talent is undeniable and, along with Derome's precise direction, they help the music flow effortlessly. It moves organically, like a single complex entity -- solos are rare and in general the music favors a "big-picture" view from the listener instead of focusing on individual players. Images of nature keep surfacing throughout the work (Derome uses animal calls, Labrosse's samples include nature sounds). Yet in more than one place, the listener loses the group in the forest. A perplexing piece, Canot-Camping should work, yet it doesn't -- not completely at least. It remains a bit cold and technical, especially since Derome's music can be so lively and uplifting. It sounds like canoe camping is a very serious affair with little place for humor and fun. It remains a fascinating work with many rewarding moments, but it is not the landmark it perhaps should have been.

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