Cuchabata begin its thunderous existence all the way back in 2003 when its founder, David Dugas Dion, dropped his self-titled David and the Woods EP. Fifteen years later and Dion, with a likeminded community of wacky artists, continues to pump psychedelic sludge into the aquifers of Montreal, the label’s (and movement’s?) home city, where the unsuspecting populace is forced to slurp up what Chuchabata’s got brewing and hopefully becomes a happier, more carefree place to live. I’ve had the pleasure of digging through some of the label’s releases over the years (in particular the fascinating ruckus of La Forêt Rouge), but there’s definitely an MO that bridges each crazy tape the label drops. Some buzzwords inherent in that MO: freedom, improvisation, community (I’ve referred to that one already, and there’s a reason), and exploration.


Start at the top, at the Dion, at the Mountain, which is what the Woods became, evolved into over the years. Maybe? This is where we start though, because Dion and a huge list of collaborators (including oud and guitar maestro and local hero Sam Shalabi) knocked one out of the park with “Ensemble,” a sprawling, ever-changing masterpiece that unquestionably requires repeat listens to get everything that’s going on. Over two untitled half-hour sides, David and the Mountain blast through heavy psych and experimental improvisation like they’ve dynamited a quarry filled with it so that it can be free to filter down throughout the countryside. Once the initial crest of the flood passes and spreads out, noise experiments gradually give way to Eastern meditative drones and distinctly Montreal-style post rock. By the end of side B the psychedelic rock is back, heavier, more destructive, as if the Ensemble has found a new quarry to dynamite, and the cycle continues. The glorious, uninterrupted cycle (if you’ve got one of those self-repeating tape decks).


“First take it or leave it.” This is how the trio Ce Qui Nous Traverse (What Is Going Through Us) does it, capturing the live-in-studio vibes. What results is an effortless psychedelic guitar record (guitars only!) droning through speakers like molten lava. These excursions, flecked with blues in their cheekiest passages, are deliberate but not plotted, like the empty maps the early explorers filled in as they went. Ce Qui Nous Traverse are the new wave of these explorers, sonic adventurers with blank slates and full pedal boards. They’re patient, allowing the discoveries to come to them rather than forcing themselves on unwitting notes and chords. Their journey is a lengthy one, but surprise awaits around every corner.


CAAPI is indebted to some of the greats here, improvisers, spiritual forebears; indeed, the five tracks here are named for “Pharaoh,” “John,” “Ornette,” “Cecil,” and “Albert,” which are all pretty obvious except for John, so I’m guessing McLaughlin? Who’s to say. But the duo, composed of Dion (once again) on drums and Guillaume Cloutier on electric guitar and joined on “electronics” by Nathalie Gélinas (“Pharaoh,” “Ornette,” and “Albert”) and Félix-Antoine Hamel on tenor saxophone (“John,” “Cecil”), take their inspiration and warp it into a whirlwind of improvisational mastery that would surely impress the virtuosos whom CAAPI is fêting here. Each track displays the players’ utter wizardry and control over their instruments, their spongelike capacity for collecting and then regurgitating components of their inspirational subjects. Jazz and psych collide in a wondrous explosion of heat and light, generating awed “oohs” and “ahhs” from the throngs of listeners, whom I’m imagining are out there with their own copies of this tape somewhere because I’m “oohing” and “ahhing” just while sitting in a chair, and surely I’m not alone. Surely!

Cuchabata Records

David and the Mountain

Ce Qui Nous Traverse