X Avant X: the sure bets

The 10th edition of the fest also marks the 40th birthday of the Music Gallery


X AVANT X with TYONDAI BRAXTON, ABSOLUTELY FREE, LORI FREEDMAN, KEITA JUMA, CCMC and others at the Music Gallery (197 John), October 15 to 18. $13-$20, festival pass $40. musicgallery.org. See listing.


This year’s X Avant festival marks the 10th anniversary of the event and the 40th birthday of its host venue, Toronto experimental music institution the Music Gallery

Founded by members of pioneering free-improvising orchestra CCMC (who perform Thursday, October 15), the Music Gallery has inhabited many spaces over the decades, from its original location in a warehouse on St. Patrick to the Great Hall to a spot in the entertainment district to its current location, St. George the Martyr Church in Grange Park. 

It’s become home to a much wider variety of weirdo music than in its early days and a unique meeting place for multiple generations and communities of sonic explorers.

As part of X Avant X, a free panel discussion on how the Music Gallery’s artistic mandate has evolved takes place Thursday (October 15), while a town hall event on Saturday (October 17) gives the public a chance to provide input on how the centre will define itself in the years to come.

The concert series is the focus, though. Here are three sure bets. 

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LORI FREEDMAN

The clarinet becomes a completely new and reimagined instrument in the hands of Lori Freedman, active in Canada’s avant-garde music scene since the early 80s. She’s experimented with electronics, collaborated with dancers and worked in both free improv and contemporary classical circles. For the opening concert, she performs The Virtuosity Of Excess, compositions for a wide range of clarinets. It’ll be filmed for an upcoming DVD release.

With CCMC on Thursday (October 15), 9 pm. $15-$20.    

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TYONDAI BRAXTON

Most famous for being the former frontman and founding member of Battles, Tyondai Braxton has returned to his experimental solo career, which has seen him sculpt minimalist electronic sounds and write orchestral compositions for Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet. He’ll perform work from his recent record, HIVE1, which combines modular synth squiggles and buzzes with subtle samples. 

With New Chance and Pantayo on Saturday (October 17), 8 pm. $15-$20.

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ABSOLUTELY FREE

X Avant has always helped draw a connection between serious academic experimental music and contemporary oddball pop. Toronto’s Absolutely Free evolved out of the ashes of art punk band DD/MM/YYYY and combine Krautrock, Afrobeat, psychedelia and early electronic music. They’re one of the more accessible acts at the festival, but you’d still never confuse them for conventional indie rockers.

With Keita Juma on Sunday (October 18), 8 pm. $13-$15.

benjaminb@nowtoronto.com | @benjaminboles

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