The Squid's Ear Magazine

Vertical Squirrels (Fischlin, Heble, Melville, Warren): Time of the Sign (Ambiances Magnetiques)

An incredibly informed instant-composing ensemble drawing on free jazz and post rock sensibilities with nods to Indian ragas, jazz-inflected minimalism, Zappa-esque bouts of sonic anarchy, and German rock music from the 1970s, captured live at Toronto, Guelph and Hamilton, Canada in 2012.

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product information:

UPC: 771028122127

Label: Ambiances Magnetiques
Catalog ID: AM_221
Squidco Product Code: 20265

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2014
Country: Canada
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded live in performance in Toronto, Guelph and Hamilton, Canada in June 2012.


Jane Bunnett-flute soprano sax

Larry Cramer-trumpet

Daniel Fischlin-guitar, percussion, synthesizer

Ben Grossman-hurdy gurdy

Ajay Heble-piano, melodica

Lewis Melville-bass, baritone sax, pedel steel, percussion, homemade instruments

Scott Merritt-guitar, ukulele, electronics, voice

Ted Warren-percussion, voice

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Sample The Album:

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Called an "an unclassifiable blast of fresh air" by the Montreal Mirror, with their album Hold True (Accroche-toi) chosen as one of the top ten offerings in 2010, the music of the Vertical Squirrels is group-improvised, live in the moment, and draws on a potent mixture of free jazz and post rock sensibilities with nods to Indian ragas, jazz-inflected minimalism, Zappa-esque bouts of sonic anarchy, and German rock music from the 1970s. Like the music they play, the Vertical Squirrels came together through a mixture of chance and perseverance. Long-time collaborators Daniel Fischlin, Ajay Heble, and Lewis Melville started playing together as a group upon the arrival in Guelph of multi-talented drummer/percussionist Rob Wallace, in 2008, later adding acclaimed drummer Ted Warren to the mix in 2011.

Time of the Sign comes after two critically acclaimed albums, Hold True (Accroche-toi) with Montreal's magnificent label Ambiances Magnétiques and Winter's Gate (BarCode Free). Recent performances at the Sound Symposium in Newfoundland and Ottawa's Sound Changes saw the band playing to its strengths creating organic soundscapes and incendiary, energy-driven improvisations that consistently defy genre, as well as maintaining a constant interest in the role of music in community building and social change.

Time of the Sign marks the band's commitment to collaborations with other improvising musicians (Jeff Bird, Jane Bunnett, Dave Clark, Gary Diggins, Ben Grossman, Dong-Won Kim, Scott Merritt, etc.) as part of its desire to expand musical possibilities and immerse itself in new harmonic textures, rhythmic compunctions, melodic diversions, and spatial orientations. A unique voice on the Canadian instrumental scene with constantly mutating sonic risk-taking at the core of their musical practice, the Vertical Squirrels' Time of the Sign shows the group instant-composing richly textured melodies and harmonies and deploying the orchestral possibilities of the singular guest voices featured on the album."-Ambiances Magnetiques

Artist Biographies

"As a pre-teen Daniel Fischlin was smitten by all stringed things after hearing the two Jimmys, and versions of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti, and The Mothers of Invention). He took lessons on flamenco and classical guitar with the inspirational George Doxas in a church basement in Montréal and went on to receive, years later, a BFA in performance on classical guitar and Renaissance lute, studying along the way with a number of teachers in Canada, France, and the USA. Aside from a short stint with an alt-fusion band that included some of the Doroschuk brothers (of Men Without Hats notoriety), Fischlin was especially active in the early music scene in Montréal, as a founding member of the acclaimed group Musica Secreta (along with Hank Knox, Valerie Kinslow, Suzie Leblanc, and Betsy MacMillan), and as an occasional player in the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal (SMAM) under Christopher Jackson and Réjean Poirier. During this period he was heard as both a performer and composer on CBC, and was a founding member, with composer Alan Belkin, of the Composer's Concert Society, devoted to promoting new music by young Canadian composers played by young Canadian musicians. As a classical guitarist he has performed world premieres of work by Andrew P. MacDonald and Chan Ka Nin. Fischlin went on to write a dissertation (later a book) on the English lute song, a performance area in which he had specialized, and has since become one of Canada's most prolific and acclaimed interdisciplinary scholars. Fischlin has also studied percussion, and during a teaching exchange in Cuba worked extensively with traditional Afro-Cuban bata percussionists (from AfroCuba de Matanzas) in the La Marina community in Matanzas. He has been active with the Toronto free-improvising ensemble The Woodchoppers Association for a number of years and co-led a mission to Cuba with Woodchoppers members Dave Clark and Lewis Melville. Recent work has seen Fischlin contributing as a player to CDs by acclaimed Malian musician Jah Youssouf and the compilation CD Afghanistan... On Guard For Thee? as well as sessions work on Tannis Slimmon's most recent album. The Vertical Squirrels project sees Fischlin combining with long-time musical and academic collaborators as part of a lifelong commitment to improvisation, musique actuelle, unexpected musical synergies, and the spirit in which they get created."

-ActuelleCD (

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"Ben Grossman is a Canadian hurdy-gurdy player, percussionist, composer and improviser. He performs both as a soloist and as part of various ensembles. Ben's work is featured on over 80 CDs. He has also been recorded for film soundtracks, radio dramas, as well as for television shows and commercials.

Grossman was part of the music team awarded the 2005 Golden Sheaf Award in the Best Original Music Non-Fiction category for the Ali Kazimi film, Continuous Journey. He has performed live with the Toronto Consort, Ensemble Polaris, La Nef, BT, Loreena McKennitt, (amongst others) and in various solo and ensemble improvisational events. Grossman's first solo album, Macrophone was released in 2007 and features a unique two CD form for simultaneous, aleatoric playback.

Grossman has presented hurdy-gurdy workshops and lessons with Valentin Clastrier, Matthias Loibner, Maxou Heintzan and Simon Wascher. He currently focuses on his efforts in applying the hurdy-gurdy to early, traditional, experimental and ambient music. His goal is to explore the wide range of sound possibilities of this acoustic synthesizer."

See also Ben Grossman website

-Wikipedia (

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"Under the visionary leadership of Ajay Heble, The Guelph Jazz Festival - winner of the 2010 Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts, and a three-time recipient of the Lieutenant Governor's Award of the Arts (1997, 2000, '01) - has achieved a rock-solid international reputation as one of the world's most inspired and provocative musical events. As the founder and Artistic Director of the Festival, Heble has inspired an appreciation of improvised and avant-garde music and delighted aficionados from around the world with his innovative and daring programming. Heble is also an accomplished pianist with a long background as a performer. His first CD, a live set of improvised music called Different Windows with percussionist Jesse Stewart, was released on the IntrepidEar label in 2001. All proceeds from this recording, as from the live concert of improvised music it documents, have gone towards the Festival. Heble has also participated as a musician in concerts and recordings in support of a range of charitable or not-for-profit organizations. He has performed in recent years with John Heward's Murray Street Band, Pauline Oliveros, Ellen Waterman, Lori Freedman, Eddie Prévost, Rob Clutton, and others. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Heble was active performing and composing music for various avant-garde jazz, alternative rock, and electronic bands, working with artists such as Richard Underhill, Don McKellar, and many others. He has performed at numerous venues including the Harbourfront Centre, the El Mocambo, The Edge, the Music Gallery, and the Sala Rossa."

-ActuelleCD (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Lewis Melville is a Guelph, Ontario multi-disciplinary musician and artist. His work has taken him on numerous adventures throughout Canada, South and North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. A veteran of the Canadian alternative music scene, he has performed or recorded with iconic Canadian bands (Skydiggers, Rheostatics, Grievous Angels, Pat Temple and the High Lonesome Players, Cowboy Junkies, Bird Sisters, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Waltons, Kim Stockwood, 13 Engines, Tannis Slimmon, and others), including the multi-million selling album Gordon by Barenaked Ladies. He has maintained a keen interest in progressive music since the early seventies, and is an original member of the Woodchoppers Association, a Toronto-based free-style jazz orchestra, and Guelph's Vertical Squirrels quartet. Lewis also performs with the Hoofbeats, the Banjo Mechanics, and Guelph singer-songwriter Tannis Slimmon. Lewis has produced numerous recordings in Canada, as well as for artists in Bhutan, West Africa, Germany, Cuba, and refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border. His work with Malian musicians is the subject of a documentary film on the role of music in development (The Road to Baleya, 2008) by Canadian filmmaker Bay Weyman."

-ActuelleCD (

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"Ted Warren (drummer) studied Music at Montréal's McGill University, and received a certificate in Jazz Studies from St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He teaches in the Jazz Studies programs at both Humber College in Toronto and Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, and is also busy as a clinician and adjudicator. An active member of Canada's jazz scene, Warren has a solid reputation as a musical, versatile powerhouse of a drummer. He fronts his own quartet, Ted's Warren Commission, which released their debut CD, First Time Caller, to critical acclaim in 2004. He was the latest drummer with Rob McConnell's famed The Boss Brass and can be heard on six of their recent CDs, including Velvet and Brass (with Mel Torme), From Lush to Lively (with Oliver Jones), Even Canadians Get the Blues, and The Boss Brass Plays the Jazz Classics. He is a member of ensembles led by Mike Murley, Mike Downes, Kieran Overs, Roy Patterson, Ted Quinlan, and Kevin Turcotte, among others and has worked with many of the world's most acclaimed performers including Slide Hampton, Sonny Greenwich, Maynard Ferguson, Lew Soloff, Chuck Mangione, Jeff Healey, Norma Winstone, Sheila Jordan, Howard Johnson, Nick Brignola, Kenny Wheeler, and Jerry Bergonzi. He has toured extensively in Poland, South Korea, Spain, Brazil, Iceland, and Japan, and performed at Carnegie Hall with harpist Joanna Jordon. Ted Warren was recipient of The Jazz Report's "Drummer of the Year" Award in 1996. In 2010 he joined the Vertical Squirrels adding his unique percussive voice to the band's volatile sound."

-ActuelleCD (

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Track Listing:

1. Falling From the Ground Up 5:46

2. This Is (Not What This Is) 3:59

3. Dhwani... Avartana (Sound Stir Fusion) 10:30

4. The Fruit Flies' Demise 0:54

5. Swamp Code 4:53

6. Time of the Sign 5:33

7. The Fragile Are Thirsty 3:23

8. Moondog 5:22

9. Small Hurts Gather 1:35

10. Avec (et sans) le vent 4:49

11. Butterflies Drink the Dead 3:56

12. Strange Beautiful 4:25

13. Signal Hill 9:18

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Musique Actuelle
Quartet Recordings
Toronto Area Improvisation
Ambiances Magnetiques
Canadian Composition & Improvisation

Search for other titles on the label:
Ambiances Magnetiques.

Recommended & Related Releases:
Vertical Squirrels (Daniel Fischlin / Ajay Heble / Lewis Melville / Ted Warren / Dong-Won Kim / Gary Diggins)
Le gouffre / The Chasm: Live from Silence, Guelph (Ontario)
(Ambiances Magnetiques)
Other Recommended Releases:
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Le gouffre / The Chasm: Live from Silence, Guelph (Ontario)
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