If you’re open to inspired musicianship that isn’t afraid to stare the future dead in the eye, look no further than Misc.
Album titles are curious things. Whether an artist spends hours or days — maybe even weeks or months — slaving over picking the right title or slaps a name on their record at the very last minute, it’s not an element audiences give much thought to after hearing a record’s name for the first time. Though they may or may not have intended to, Montreal-based trio Misc have gotten inside my head with both the music and choice of title for their sophomore record, Partager l’ambulance.
The album’s literal translation is “sharing the ambulance,” and plays off the themes Jérôme Beaulieu (piano, synths), William Côté (drums, percussion), and Simon Pagé (double and electric bass) explore through their genre-blurring sound. While the past year has put the perilous nature of human existence in stark relief for most of us, too often we dismiss the serious nature of global crises by either being overly optimistic about the outcomes or default to the kind of group-think, self-salving mantras that litter our social media feeds: “We’re all in this together,” “Stay strong,” “Tomorrow is another day.”
With Partager l’ambulance, Misc gives it to us straight: we’re all hitching a ride on a planet-sized emergency response vehicle that’s dangerously close to not making it to the hospital on time. Using a musical language that emphasizes melody without compromising texture, tone, and mood, Misc’s wordless instrumental fusion of traditional jazz improvisation with contemporary touches pops out of the speakers. Opener “Le preacher” plays out like a red herring, kicking off with what feels like traditional jazz rhythms and percussions before adding unexpected vocal samples kick the song into a musical detour that’s decidedly punk, balancing tension, aggression, and the sheer beauty of the trio’s synergy. An inspired cover of Suuns‘ “X-ALT” (from 2018’s Felt) simultaneously connects the dots between Misc’s non-jazz influences and shatters any expectations about what a jazz trio should and can sound like.
For every exploratory left-turn (see the way “Une chiée” flirts with psychedelic noodling) that Partager l’ambulance takes, there’s enough straight-ahead piano-percussion-bass traditionalism to satisfy the most discerning of jazz enthusiasts. That said, Misc’s focus isn’t on maintaining any kind of status quo. From a loungey piano-led base, “Petite apathie” builds into an ominous and moody tone poem. The album’s stand-out, “Mad,” most evidently showcases Beaulieu, Côté, and Pagé’s penchant for free-form jamming and late-night improvisation, the overlaying effects making the song less finger-snapping and more thought-provoking.
If you’re looking for a distraction from all the existential and real-life crises threatening human existence, Partager l’ambulance is not going to be your jam. If you’re open to thoughtful, inspired musicianship that pushes the boundary of form and genre that isn’t afraid to stare the future dead in the eye, look no further than Misc.