PHEEK with NAW , TASK , GREG GOW and CHRISTIAN SKJODT at Amber (119 Yorkville), Sunday (July 10). $5 before 8 pm, more after. www.phawn.com. Rating: NNNNN
For a minute, much of the minimal techno world was looking to Montreal as the next hotbed of undiscovered talent. European labels descended en masse on the Mutek festival and went gaga for that micro-house sound that Akufen would later make famous. A handful of Toronto producers briefly relocated there to try to get in on the action.
In real life, the techno and house scene in Montreal is quite small. There are venues and nights for electro, rock and big-room house, but the options for the minimalists are limited, according to Jean-Patrice Rémillard (aka Pheek).
"I almost never play in Montreal, maybe once every couple of months," confesses Rémillard from his home while he waits for his new windows to show up. "I'm discouraged by the lack of interest here. I don't really know what people want to hear any more. When I play other countries, they tell me I'm lucky to be living in Montreal, but although there are lots of producers, they don't really go out unless they're playing."
Perhaps it's the unenthusiastic local environment that has moulded his honest humility and helped drive his perfectionist approach to his own music. When describing his career and music, Rémillard is refreshingly frank about the boredom and frustration he experienced during his earlier ambient phase. Minimal is often criticized for being too cerebral and too distanced from dance music's primary purpose - making people dance. Playing gigs for unresponsive audiences has steered his work closer to the beat while keeping his focus on sound design.
"I used to be a purist about building sets from scratch in the moment but was criticized for being a bit boring. My main interest is the sounds, but so that I don't lose my crowd, I make sure there are some references that are familiar: the kick drum and the hi-hats."
Listening to his recent live sets, you can see why people are starting to take note of his peculiarly funky gurgles and splats. Most of the sounds were actually created 10 years ago but have been reworked and reprocessed so many times, he generally doesn't know what they were originally.
In the end, though, as with so much music, it's the grooves themselves rather than the methods used to make them that makes his songs appealing.