Creative Orchestra (Guelph) 2007



Free Improv For Robots

Broken Record Chamber

Jim Black, guitar, electronics
Ben Wilson, drum machine, electronics
Jess Conn-Potegal, turntables, keys, electronics

Tracks 1- 6 recorded at Q-Space.  Tracks 7-11 recorded live at The Sugar Refinery, Vancouver BC, 1998.

Three individuals from different musical backgrounds, each with his own unique vision, meet at an Otomo Yoshihide/Ruins concert and the resultant collision becomes Broken Record Chamber.  BRC ploughs a new sound field, through which meanders various sonic life forms, not excluding the patrons of the Epic hole-in-the-wall, The Sugar Refinery, where much of this was recorded.  Imagine, if you can, a garage band version of Otomo chucking a used record store down the stairs.

Broken Record Chamber was inaugurated in September 1998, barely moments after the smoke and debris were cleared in the wake of a momentous double bill featuring Otomo Yoshihide, Martin Tetrault and Ruins.  Since that time Broken Record Chamber have participated in the Taking Wing Improvised Music Series, and have performed live over the air waves from the studios of  Vancouver's cooperative radio station (CFRO).  They have also been prominently featured on CBC Radio's 'Brave New Waves.'

Like true grandchildren of McLuhan, BRC are at home in the global village, where instant access to all things electric is the norm.  Drawing from acid jazz funk to pop rock, from punk to ambient electronic to improvisation, and from large ensemble jazz to 20th century classical, the diverse and combined talents of Jim Black, Jess Conn-Potegal and Ben Wilson have coalesced into a categorical no-man's land: an urban/environmental, signal-to-noise, DIY improv-ambient adventure kit.


What the critics are saying:

"Pretty much the first thing one hears in "Chopsticks," the opening track from Free Improv For Robots, is a grainy recording of the instructional piano song. Fortunately, after about 15 seconds "Chopsticks" dissolves into electronic cacophony. BRC's bio states that they formed after witnessing an Otomo Yoshihide concert in Vancouver, which speaks volumes about their approach. Unlike Yoshihide and Toronto's Rust Brothers, BRC's method is more electronic manipulation than crazed turntablism. Pitch-shifted samples and heavily fed-back delays are the order of the day. The turntable contributions of Jess Conn-Potegal are effective in this setting, highlighting the specific quality of sound that only vinyl manipulation can produce. Jim Black's guitar work is inventive as well. His fractured and deeply processed playing never gives the sense that he is merely soloing on top of beats (or lack thereof). The second half of Free Improv for Robots is recorded live and the group's approach changes from improvisation-plus-editing to the deconstruction of seemingly simple, even groove-oriented ideas. BRC are creative and humorous with both sonic collages and beats."

—David Dacks, Exclaim

"... these animated improvisations have a vitality that is often excluded by the term 'sound art.'  Four live tracks, including the 19 minute 'French Reggae Strangulation', reveal how the trio's fractious constructions and prickly textures thrive in concert performance"

—Julian Cowley, The Wire

"This is the sound of the world coming undone, its frayed fabrics sizzling on a griddle of electrical noise; the sound of a postneutron future in which the streets are empty but the machines play on.  Eerily dark and compelling, Free Improv for Robots conjures up the kind of drugged lassitude in which the scrape of the needle scratching over and over in the runoff groove is too perfect to shut off."

—Alex Varty, The Georgia Straight

"... they are harbingers of the new future of improvised music, one in which the boundaries between different genres and schools of music crumble and become meaningless."

—Steve MacIssac, Offbeat

"Are you looking for something really weird? The BROKEN RECORD CHAMBER blends turntables, guitar and electronics and shapes it into something unclassifiable. Somewhere between the discharges of Ground Zero and the soundtracks of Atari 2600 video games, Jess Conn-Potegal, Jim Black and Ben Wilson create sound sculptures that can be both striking at times and pitiful at others. The last few tracks are live recordings and the sound quality suffers, especially on 'French Reggae Strangulation', where the crowd become very noisy. Still a nice record and something to discover."

—François Couture, Délire Musical