Not Miles Davis jazz

By James Keller

There is some music that you’re just not going to get. Not everyone likes the same music, and that’s fair. Sometimes, it’s a matter of taste; sometimes, a matter of intellect. “High brow” music isn’t accessible to the masses, and that’s fair, too. But once in a while, unfortunately, it’s a matter of quality. Sometimes, there’s just nothing to get.

Enter Tetrix, a self-proclaimed, Calgary-based “free-form jazz” group that has, in no comprehendible way, anything to do with jazz.

During the first listen, Tetrix seems like a collection of incoherent sounds and noises, peppered with obscure instrumentation and low-fi vocals. On the next, it sounds confusing and eccentric, out of the reach of not only the mainstream, but also the so-called independent art-music fan as well. However, Tetrix isn’t too concerned with who, if anyone, is listening to their strange brew of electronic, rock jazz and math.

“It’s based on these mathematical principles of each person reacting to the music as it happens,” says band member Conner Gottfried, quickly pointing out that all their music is entirely improvised. “We approach it from the mathematics of Cellular Automata, where each of us reacts from our own perspectives, and it’s the perspectives of all of us.”

In the band’s defense, drummer Craig Faas argues that it takes a certain type of person to be a Tetrix fan.

“We just do what we want to do without focusing on what people will like,” he says. “Our audience is intellectuals who can handle it, who can think about it, who find our ideas inspiring.”

Gottfried brands the music as “a new kind of science,” hinting that this concept–of acting and reacting, of improvisation and of free form music–is something new. While the philosophy behind the musical improvisation that Tetrix employs may in fact be as old as music itself, the sound they create is definitely original. And Gottfried isn’t too concerned with appealing to the familiarity of the mass market.

“The whole concept of mass marketing is something we’ll probably never approach; we don’t need a mass market,” Gottfried says. “We look up to bands like Tool, who the majority of people don’t understand and don’t want to.”

And while the connection to Tool may seem weak at best–and it certainly is–Texrix is definitely not mass marketable. It scarcely resembles any existing style or genre, and it is unapologetically unconcerned with whether it does. One way it tries to escape the confines of traditional definitions of “music” is through interesting uses of technology.

For most bands, jazz, rock or otherwise, technology appears in the form of synthesizers and digital effects pedals. However, Tetrix takes this one step further. Modifying sounds “in real time,” their live set-up includes a Sony Playstation controller connected to custom-written software. With every press of a button or movement of the joypad, the band can change the pitch, volume or other elements of the sound as they go.

“Everyone is an expert joystick user,” explains Gottfried. “We’re integrating organic and digital. It’s a new form of music that you don’t know is digital, and it provides us with freedom. These types of sounds are not possible any other way.”

Perhaps this is an entirely new way of playing and writing music, but admittedly, this new hybrid of music and technology will not catch on anytime soon. But again, this does not concern Tetrix, who aim to find their niche by way of the Internet.

“Whether or not anyone ever does this again is irrelevant to us. This is what we do, it’s what we’re doing we’re going to continue to do it,” Gottfried explains. “Whether or not it catches on, it’s their loss if they don’t–but we’ve got the magic formula.”


Leave a comment