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Michel Côté

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  • Years Active: 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

At first a radio personality, drummer, and composer, Michel F. Côté joined the collective Ambiances Magnétiques in 1988. Since then, his activities have encompassed free improvisation with his groups Bruire and Klaxon Gueule, sound-art collaborations with Diane Labrosse and Christof Migone, and composing for dance, theater, and film.

Côté grew up with rock, admiring drummers like Led Zeppelin's powerhouse John Bonham and Yes/King Crimson's man-of-finesse Bill Bruford. But he first entered the music world through radio, beginning to broadcast programs of creative music in the early '80s at Montreal's community station, CIBL. In 1985, he began to work as a researcher and host for "Chants Magnétiques" and later "Musique Actuelle" at Radio-Canada, Canada's national francophone radio. A music buff, he sucked in hundreds of sounds and influences, developing his drumming skills but most importantly his studio aesthetics.

In 1988, Côté became the eighth member of Ambiances Magnétiques and recorded his first album under the name Bruire. An outfit of unstable geometry centered around the drummer, Bruire reinvented itself with each album. Côté's evolution as a musician can be witnessed from the deconstructed pop songs of Le Barman A Tort de Sourire (1989) to the delicate miniatures of Les Fleurs de Léo (1992) and the abstract improvised compositions on L'Âme de l'Objet (1995), a highlight in his discography.

Meanwhile, Côté began to write incidental music for theater, dance, and film. This aspect of his work quickly became the most time-consuming and commercially, as well as artistically, viable, even though it meant working in the shadows. Since 1995 he has been a regular collaborator of playwright/filmmaker Robert Lepage, writing and performing the music for the play Les Sept Branches de la Rivière Ota, performing in the theatrical cabaret Zulu Time, and writing together with Bernard Falaise the music of his film Nô. The drummer also worked with the dance troupe Carbone 14, and playwrights Wajdi Mouawad and Brigitte Haentjens. The solo album Compil Zouave culls excerpts from these various scores.

In the late '90s, Côté developed an interest in live electronics and shifted his music toward freer and more-textural pastures. A collaboration with sound artist and Avatar member Christof Migone (Vex, 1998) triggered an exploration of the electro-acoustic improvisation that developed in Austria and Germany at the same. This new vision is documented on Muets, the second album by his trio Klaxon Gueule (with Falaise and Alexandre St-Onge).