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L' Infonie

L' Infonie - Vol. 33 Mantra

Vol. 33 Mantra
Polydor - 1970

Michael Panontin
Walter Boudreau's electronic/freak/jazz collective L'Infonie held sway over the burgeoning Montreal arts scene from 1967 until their demise in 1974, issuing four full-length LPs with the rather prosaic titles Vol. 3, Vol.33 Mantra, Vol. 333 and Vol. 3333. With poet/singer Raoul Duguay and a cast of assorted oddballs on board for the ride, L'Infonie's cacophonous performances paralleled the communal freakfests taking place over in Europe at the time, making them more kindred cousins to the likes of Globe Unity Orchestra, Gong, or even France's totally obscure Fille Qui Mousse.

After the limited success locally of their debut long-player, Boudreau was in Quebec City trying to coax some government funding out of the province, but along with the (probably not unexpected) brush-off, he was handed a copy of Terry Riley's In C, which he thus chose to re-interpret for the band's follow-up Vol. 33 Mantra. Boudreau recalled in 1996, "Since we were 'weird' and totally bizarre, the man chose to give me an album (but not the grant...) that contained only one piece ('In C'), obviously relieved to get rid of both the music and myself!"

While there have been countless interpretations over the years, from Bang On a Can's disciplined, somewhat scholarly reading of it to Acid Mothers Temple's more Eastern incursions, L'Infonie's version was probably the first, and is definitely the funkiest. There is a crashing, almost dissonant percussion throughout, and loping basslines snake in and out of the mix, with the overall effect more one of chaos than subtlety. As Boudreau described Vol. 33 Mantra, "Levels of performance were hazardous, if not incontrollable. We were all young and making our way in the music world. Cracks, misses, faltering pitch can be heard during this (incomplete) rendition of the work. Today would be a completely different ball game. But this is what it sounded like 26 years ago in this small basement studio in the east-end Montreal, where the fumes of incense and other natural perfumes elevated our minds to the etheral reality of a unique musical experience." Unique indeed!

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