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Ambiances Magnétiques is a non-profit, Canadian musical collective, which was formed in 1982 by a group of independent musicians and producers from Montreal. The entity was formed out of necessity: the avant-garde tastes of the members — which include jazz, classical, folk, and rock — proved to be too challenging for prospective distributors and commercial record labels. The result has been the creation of Canada's largest and most active label devoted to a variety of improvised musics that include jazz, avant-garde, rock, and unusual hybrids vested in improvisatory practices.
Performances from the collective during its heyday were sparse, as showcased by the 1992 CD, Une Théorie des Ensembles. But the improvising collective nonetheless succeeded in creating a wide network to support an indie music scene. The collective includes some of the most distinguished improvising musicians in Canada, including Jean Derome, René Lussier, Joane Hétu, and a wide range of others located not only in the Montreal scene but across Canada and internationally. The activities of the musicians originally associated with the performance collective now encompass a wide range of ensembles, live performances, and recording activities: they include the record label Ambiances Magnétiques, as well as Distributions Ambiances Magnétiques Etc. (DAME), a distribution outlet, and production companies such as Productions SuperMémé, which orchestrates concert series and events in Montreal. By late 2000, the label had 90 titles under its belt, a number that had expanded to 200 as of March 2010 with the release of Shaman, a duo recording featuring Jean Derome and Joane Hétu. Presently DAME has a musique actuelle catalogue of over 450 titles, a remarkable and diverse archive of improvised music originating largely in Canada.
The name Ambiances Magnétiques is mostly known for (and perceived as) the Montreal experimental music record label, then, but the label, which has exerted significant influence on the international improvised music scene, grew out of the specific artists' collective that preceded it. This nucleus of musicians co-created the thriving Montreal experimental and improvised music scene and have played a significant role in expanding this scene across Canada and internationally.
Ambiances Magnétiques began in 1982 when guitarist René Lussier and saxophonist/flutist Jean Derome presented a few duo concerts in Montreal under the name Ambiances Magnétiques (which translates literally to "Magnetic Atmospheres or Environments"). In 1983 this group teamed up with guitarist André Duchesne and clarinetist Robert Marcel Lepage and launched the label Ambiances Magnétiques, originally an entity managed by the members of the collective to release their records, with occasional guests always having some sort of connection to the nucleus (up until the late '90s, when the label started to broaden its horizons to include Canadian and international improvising musicians of the highest calibre). In 1986, the group was extended to include Joane Hétu, Diane Labrosse, and Danielle P. Roger, three Québécois musicians performing together in various avant-pop girl groups (Wondeur Brass, Justine). Hétu would soon be left in charge of the label itself. Radio DJ and drummer Michel F. Côté were enlisted in 1988, and finally turntablist/record manipulator extraordinaire, Martin Tétreault (discovered accidentally as he was overheard by his unsuspecting neighbor, André Duchesne, in the late '80s) officially joined in the mid-'90s.
By 2010, Ambiances Magnétiques had established itself as one of the most important and creative contributors to improvised music-making anywhere, with a rich resource of historic recordings, the active promotion of new artists, and an open-ended philosophy of music-making primarily idenrtified as musique actuelle, a term that derives from the three main genres with which it is associated: free improvisation, jazz, and avant-garde rock.
- René Lussier, founding member of the collective
- Jean Derome, founding member of the collective
- List of record labels