Alien Radio is the Canadian creative music power trio of clarinetist François Houle, bassist James Meger, and percussionist Joe Sorbara. These stalwart sonic adventurers come together as often as the universe allows to breathe life into a diverse book of compositions penned by free jazz and experimental music luminaries as well as by each of the trio’s members.
Having formed in Vancouver during a moment of confluence that saw Sorbara on secondment to Canada’s left coast while Houle had yet to make the move from his long-time home to Europe, the three now travel greater distances to convene. The musical kinship founded in James’ rehearsal shed in East Van, however, remains as the cornerstone of their music.
Clichés vol I & II are sibling albums released, respectively, on Sorbara’s Oval Window Records and Houle’s Afterday Audio. The music on both volumes was recorded on the afternoon of April 14, 2019 at Capilano University in North Vancouver by the multi-faceted West Coast musician, Jared Burrows.
Each volume begins with a piece by Houle and takes its title from that initial track.
This second volume begins with a three-part celebration of the great Anthony Braxton who’s influence on generations of creative musicians is difficult to overstate. After Houle’s Trio Axioms, a tribute to Braxton that alludes to his concept of “forces in motion,” the volume continues with an obstacle course by Sorbara. Obzocky Thing is another salute to Mr. Braxton that digs into Sorbara’s own youthful (mis)understanding of “pulse track logics” that came from reading too much Forces in Motion as a teenager. The Braxtonian celebration rounds out with a rendering of Composition 69B by the friendliest of friendly experiencers himself.
Next we hear Houle’s Lemminium, the suggested name for one of four heavy metal elements in the periodic table, was written in honor of Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister following his death in 2015.
Both volumes conclude with a different take of Steve Lacy’s Clichés, each playful and overflowing with joy.
“Clichés,”Houle explains, “was one of my early favorite compositions by Steve Lacy. I played it for him when I was taking soprano sax lessons with him in 1994 in Paris. After I was done, he sat there seemingly not impressed. He then suggested that I try the piece on my clarinet, which I did. He then had a huge grin on his face, and simply told me that playing more than one horn was like polygamy. It was his unique way of telling me that my true voice, my calling, was to be a clarinet player. I sold my saxophone as soon as I got back home in Vancouver and never looked back. Best advice ever!”
Check out Clichés vol. I: Trio Music: