c_RL is an innovative improvising trio that features three of Toronto’s notable performer/composers: Allison Cameron, electronics/found objects/keyboards, Germaine Liu, percussion and Nicole Rampersaud, trumpet. The trio has performed at Music (in) Galleries, Somewhere There, The Tranzac and as part of Lab Space’s Hot Soup multi-disciplinary series among other Toronto venues. Among their gigs, c_RL was featured at the Tone Deaf Festival in Kingston performing with Malcolm Goldstein and more recently they opened for Friendly Rich at The Cameron House in Toronto.
The Group has a mutual interest in exploring the sonic palette of trumpet, percussion and electronics. Their exploratory approach to timbre and gesture and interest in incorporating ‘found sounds’ has quickly become a trademark of their colourful sonic world. Although c_RL is primarily an improvising trio, they are also interested in structural approaches to composition such as in deconstructing and re-inventing the jazz standard repertoire – thinking of such radical departures as Derek Bailey or even Ran Blake.
Released May 8, 2015
Allison Cameron – Banjo, Plastic Ukelele, Casio SK-Keyboard, 1980’s Crackle-synth, Toy Piano, Thumb Piano, Cassettes, Contact Mics, Guitar Pedals, Honeytone Amps.
Nicole Rampersaud – Trumpet, Harmonica, Toy Piano
Germaine Liu – Percussion, Harmonica
Recorded and Mixed by Matt Miller
Mastered by Fedge
This recording was made possible through the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council.
Toronto’s contemporary classical music scene, which also flies the “new music” banner, is a flourishing garden of interesting sounds that exists (for me, anyway) in the interstitial avenues between genres. Demolished jazz, squelchy electronics, chamber music, mutated dance rhythms, and a plethora of other deconstructed forms are all mauled, mixed and mangled by a host of composer/improvisers into a vibrant oeuvre that defies categorization. Multi-instrumentalist Allison Cameron, percussionist Germaine Liu and trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud are just three of the talented Torontonians emitting thought-provoking tones in this exciting (non-)idiom. In trio form, they exist as c_RL, an exploratory group interested in unique timbres and extended techniques. With Friends, the crew offers up up eleven pieces of varying duration, each of which is a finely-assembled yet playful parade of sound. Liu is constantly on point; even when it sounds like the contents of my cupboard are being scattered across the room, there’s a rhythmic pulse tugging my brain back into its bony home. Whether it’s with electronics or strings or who-knows-what, Cameron is able to coax multifarious streams of sound that play nicely with Rampersaud’s finely honed trumpet passages. Throughout, the three performers craft a music that is free from form, yet far from formless; it’s a writhing ball of synergy resulting from a trio of individuals deeply attuned with one another and with themselves.
Temporarily putting aside her notated work, multi-instrumentalist Allison Cameron teams up with fellow improvisers trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud and percussionist Germaine Liu for a program of eleven instant compositions that play to each trio member’s strengths, cementing a group identity. Sophisticated in her use of rhythm displacement, the drummer still keeps a thumping continuum going, while the trumpeter’s ability to segue from aggressive gargling to yearning grace notes and beyond provides perfect foils to the textures emanating from Cameron’s instrumental collection, which sometimes sound as if a kitchen drawer filled with cooking utensils and a workshop bench stacked with mechanical implements are igniting at the same time.
Cameron’s strategies often demonstrate the distinctive timbres that result from Derek Bailey-styled string scratching and clanging applied to a banjo or guitar. On “Pew Pew Pew” and elswhere, the variations from her electric piano give off ecclesiastical pulses to further amplify the Salvation Army-like strength of Liu’s bass-drum whacks and Rampersaud’s high-pitched blasts. Overall, the prime instance of group interaction is on the ironically titled “Romantic Evening.” Liu establishes and then deconstructs the cadences by varying her hand rubs with what sounds like balls bouncing on drum tops, while brass noises are made more jarring by linking them to clanging banjo frails. Atonality isn’t c_RL’s only attribute, as “A Little Dancing” demonstrates: a moderate trumpet tone and smoothing percussion-pats convey melodic sentiments with not a string snap to be heard. The players also demonstrate an absurdist sense of humour. The concluding “All Is On” is a collection of slide-whistle-like toots and percussion crashes that contrast with the breezy passion emanating from a scratchy recorded rendition of a Bossa Nova heard in the background. If there’s a downside to Friends, it’s only that it’s taken so long to release it, the disc having been recorded in early 2012.
Poised, playful and piquant by turns, trio c_RL create improvised music that engages. Rattling, pinging, dinging, poinging and thumping surround the sparse trumpet motif in “Boogie Woogie to the Church,” a strong opener. “Kapow” lives up to its name with intense drums, stinging banjo and bawling trumpet. “A Little Dancing” features Nicole Rampersaud’s round-toned trumpet, and her cheerful pentatonic theme is enmeshed by swarming percussion patterns by Germaine Liu. The good-natured piece reflects the fellow-feeling bond that connects these skilled, sensitive co-creators.
Composer/leader Allison Cameron has an acute ear for unlikely sound potential. Witness her use of a plastic ukulele in “How Poetic,” for example: It thrums, plunks and glissandos and forms the centre of the quietly expressive piece, ceding to her amplified tappings. A sweet tenderness suffuses “c_RL Friends Forever,” an intimate, slower-paced piece opened by harmonious toy piano chords, in which each moment glows with its own happy charm. Free improvisation seldom sounds this cheerfully and lovingly crafted.