Chants et danses du monde inanimé: Collection: Espèces en voie d’exception

Robert Marcel Lepage, René Lussier

Great music, a great Lussier record, and Lepage’s most demanding album — his music is usually somewhat lighter and more accessible. Monsieur Délire, Québec

The pairing of Lepage’s sax and clarinet wails with Lussier’s dry, percussive guitar is at once playful and skilled. […] typically, what sounds at first like a random noise becomes a theme that is built up and then destroyed. I can imagine the smiles on their faces as they recorded this. Option, USA

Chants et danses du monde inanimé, an early collaboration between René Lussier and Robert Marcel Lepage, was released for the first time in 1984: this compact disc reissue also includes 30 minutes of new music recorded in 1996. Bashly rhythmic, nicely paced duets -- part composed and part spontaneous -- often with solid and complex rock beats that range from the deep and introspective to the wild and comical. The music is thick with textures, keen with penetrating sounds, and conceived with an acute sense of how things fit together be they music and society or tongues and cheeks.

CD (AM 001)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 001
  • 1996
  • UCC 771028100125
  • Total duration: 61:27
  • Jewel case
  • 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
  • 105 g

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In the press

Listening Diary

François Couture, Monsieur Délire, May 30, 2010

I have had the LP for ages, but not the 1996 CD reissue. So I grabbed at FIMAV, where René Lussier performed. From 1984, the very first official Ambiances Magnétiques release is an excellent example of what would be called Quebec “musique actuelle”. Lepage on multiple, often multitracked clarinets; Lussier on guitar, foot-tapping, and I think some daxophone. A sequence of rather short semi-improvised pieces with rough textures like concrete, dissonances like a trafic jam, and very lively, like a bustling city. The reissue added a new session recorded in 1996 (9 tracks, at the cost of eliminating Beyrouth, à défaut d’être mort from the original LP, don’t know why). These are just as creazy and creative as the original pieces. Great music, a great Lussier record, and Lepage’s most demanding album — his music is usually somewhat lighter and more accessible.

Great music, a great Lussier record, and Lepage’s most demanding album — his music is usually somewhat lighter and more accessible.

Modern Folklore

François Couture,, March 16, 2004

When I was asked to dive into DAME’s catalog in search of intersecting points or recurring themes that would sketch discovery trails, the trad connection stood out immediately. Not only because of the importance of traditional folk music in the development of avant-garde music in Quebec, but also because the albums belonging to this line usually speak to us in a more immediate way and are easier to grasp.

It may seem a bit paradoxical, but tradition and innovation often go together hand in hand. When a culture’s avant-garde artists look for ways to overstep the rules of the music industry, they often turn their attention to roots — theirs and others — to find new paths to explore. Traditional folk music often holds at his core treasures of stylistic freedom and improvisation. Furthermore, its festive outlook can make it easier for an audience to accept and appreciate the introduction of new rhythmic, melodic or improvisational parameters. That’s what happened and continues to happen in Quebec. Here’s a listening trail in three parts, three original ways DAME artists approach the tradition: revisited, reinvented, and made-up folk.

Revisited folk

Late 1970s: a trad folk revival is sweeping the Province of Quebec, thanks to a new generation of musicians (groups like La Bottine Souriante, Le Rêve du Diable, and L’Engoulevent). Among these groups, many of which recording for the label Tamanoir, is a collective of crazy youngsters, guitarists who deprave reels and folk tunes with their melodic inventions and post-modern poetry. Among Conventum’s regular members are André Duchesne and René Lussier, who will later rank among the founding members of the collective Ambiances Magnétiques (sadly, Conventum’s two albums, À l’Affût d’un complot and Le Bureau central des utopies, are out of print).

In Ambiances Magnétiques, René Lussier has continued to explore a rereading of Quebec’s music history. His discography is peppered with folk tunes stripped naked and dressed anew. On his three albums with Les Granules (a duo with Jean Derome) he exaggerates the Dionysian character of the music (Le Boudin de Noël - or The Christmas Blood Pudding - on Soyez vigilants, restez vivants and La Chicaneuse on Au Royaume du Silencieux rank among the finest examples). With Le Trésor de la langue, he focused on our historical folklore, turning the words of René Lévesque, the FLQ, and people on the street into a new “Cahier de la bonne chanson” (a music book of old folk tunes that rested on the piano of many Quebec families in pre-television days). His recent collaboration with American guitarist Eugene Chadbourne signals a return to these roots — their CD L’Oasis released on Victo presents many revisited tunes from both sides of the border.

Reinvented folk

The folklore of a nation is not limited to a body of songs, it is also a state of mind, a substratum from which many artists in DAME’s catalog dig to reinvent our traditional folk music (and others too). On La Boulezaille, Pierre Tanguay and Pierre Langevin (masters of many European folk music in the group Strada) mix up traditional and modern instruments in search of a new, “actuel” folk freed from the cage in which all kinds of traditionalists would like to preserve it. Groups like Interférence Sardines and La Fanfare Pourpour shape their original pieces in ways that bring to mind the Devil’s fiddler or street fair music (music of the people, the prime definition of “folk” music). Joane Hétu’s Musique d’hiver doesn’t have that festive side to it, but it nevertheless redefines the folklore of our Quebec winters with much more precision and evocative strength then Nelligan’s famous poem.

Made-up folk

Traditional folk music refers to an instinctive form of music-making, music created outside the institutions and their codes, everyday music. And what if one wants to step out of the everyday? There is always the possibility to create folk out of nothing, to make folk-fiction. René Lussier and Robert Marcel Lepage establish their “musique actuelle” - a blend of free improvisation and reminiscences of trad - as the folk music of the future, the last enigma of a dehumanized world. The same goes for André Duchesne’s Les 4 Guitaristes de l’Apocalypso-Bar, the band being presented as trad rockers from the future (a post-apocalyptic future, mind you). And with Bruire’s Chants rupestres, Michel F Côté and his friends attempt to recreate through free improvisation the folk music of prehistoric men. We may have ventured far from the falsely naive tunes of Conventum, but this music still stems from a desire to go back to the roots of music expression. And in the end, there are many ways to call a square dance.


Chris Kelsey, Cadence, no. 23:5, May 1, 1997

The most interesting thing about this CD of mostly free improvisation is the opportunity it affords us to monitor the artists’ progress from 1984, when the first seven tracks were recorded, to 1996, when cuts 8 through 16 were laid down. In ’84, both Lussier and Lepage were well on their way to developing their own voices, though both were still manifestly groping. Lussier’s style was a mechanistic abstract-expressionism; his timbres were harsh, his lines jagged, his melodies and hammonies of little consequence given his extreme textural freedom. By ’96, the guitarist has his materials under control. The rough edges are leH that way purposely; they are no longer perceived as accidents. Lussier’s increased skills have given his work a more humane cast- ironic, perhaps, given this album’s stated intent, which is as a parody of our mechanized consumer society. Lepage’s development is similar. Where in ’84 he was searching - playing two saxes simultaneously, manipulating his tone and articulating in an extreme and sometimes clumsy manner - by’96 his chops are together. The harshness is leavened by a control that wasn’t there twelve years earlier. The mature Lepage concentrates on clarinet, upon which he has a comprehensive technique; hence, his lines are informed by a melodic sense that was far less pronounced on the earlier date. The duo benefits from the individual evolution of the piayers. Where, in the first recordings, the improvising moves in a more parallel direction - the players’limitations prohibit a more integrated, interactive perfommance - the later tracks are far more well-coordinated. The’84 cuts were made by a pair of talented students; the recent tracks by mature fine artists. Consequently, we have one-half of a very fine album - enough, I think, for me to recommend it.


AR, Octopus, no. 6, April 1, 1997

Même accompagné, ce dernier excelle. En compagnie de Robert Marcel Lepage, il forme un duo — clarinette, saxophone et guitare — d’une «espece en voie d’exception», celle des folkloristes urbains. Echappant au conditionnement culturel, privilégiant le ludique et l’aléatoire, nos deux compères artisans «artbrutistes» se livrent à un étrange rituel mécaniste où des danses singulières aux titres énigmatiques sont â un train d’enfer les unes aux autres emboîtées. Le moins que l’on puisse dire est que René Lussier (il a entre autre enregistré avec Fred Frith, Jean Derome, Chris Cutler et son Trésor de la Langue reste une inépuisable source d’émerveillement) ne se prend pas au sérieux, préférant ne pas définir sa musique à l’humour décapant. Ou plutôt non. S’il devait la décrire, nul doute qu’il parlerait de «nouille-age woolworth best électroencaustique». Autant dire que ce pataphysicien mériterait d’être decoré de l’Ordre de la Grand Gidouille


Dan Maryon, Option, no. 73, March 1, 1997

This reissue of the 1984 album, one of the first on Ambiances magnétiques, adds another album’s worth of music recorded in 1996 that is true to the original and every bit as fun. Lepage and Lussier are standouts in the noise-and-sound avant-garde that has grown over the years with the success of the annual Victoriaville music fest. The pairing of Lepage’s sax and clarinet wails with Lussier’s dry, percussive guitar is at once playful and skilled. The pieces are presented as exercises in style prompted by les influences mécanistes, the juncture of the mechanical age with the age of technology. And while the album notes take on a nearly academic tone (albeit with tongue in cheek), the music ranges from accessible (playing with canned rock riffs or referencing wellknown themes) to intensely freeform. While at first I found this nearly headacheinducing, with a little time and more focused attention I began to enjoy the conversational style of these duets. They require attention—typically, what sounds at first like random noise becomes a theme that is built up and then destroyed. I can imagine the smiles on their faces as they recorded this.

The pairing of Lepage’s sax and clarinet wails with Lussier’s dry, percussive guitar is at once playful and skilled. […] typically, what sounds at first like a random noise becomes a theme that is built up and then destroyed. I can imagine the smiles on their faces as they recorded this.


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 31, March 1, 1997

Non, ce n’est pas à proprement parler une réédition. D’ailleurs, le thème principal -en durée- de l’édition vinyl, Beyrouth, à défaut d’être mort n’y figure pas! Il sera inclus, retravaillé, sur un enregistrement ultérieur (de Lepage? de Lussier?), il s’agit plutôt d’un rappel (collection 1984), à confronter à une nouvelle série de pièces (collection 1996)

Première approche, non auditive:moins de préoccupations d’ordre politique (Beyrouth justement mais la collection 1984 comprenait aussi -et maintient- Chiens de garde culturels, États asservis… ) alors que l’intitulé des pièces récentes à un côté satiesque ou pataphysique Berceuse pour un petit bidon, L’art de remplir des boîtes, et autre L’ablation des sinusoïdales.

Deuxième approche: s’il s’agit toujours d’un dialogue de deux instrumentiste, on sent une différence d’approche: en 1984, les rythmes saccadés, les sonorités grouillantes, ou stridentes de la guitare semblait surtout constituer des supports fluctuant à un jeu parfois déstructuré, mais plus ample qu’un saxophone; dans la collection 1996, cette impression de deux niveaux a disparu: les deux instrumentiste évoluent sur le même plan, se partageant les rôles sur ce qu’on pourrait qualifier de «devant du son». Les deux démarches aboutissent également à la constitution de petites cellules sonores évolutives… Ce monde n’est pas si «inanimé» que le titre le laisse entendre…

… ce monde n’est pas si «inanimé» que le titre le laisse entendre…

Soundcheck Review

John L Walters, The Wire, no. 156, February 1, 1997

Chants et danses du monde inanimé features Robert M Lepage playing clarinet and alto sax in (I think) largely improvised duos with Lussier’s guitar. There are seven pieces from 1984 and nine from last year with titles such as Tutti frottis and L’art de remplir des boîtes. The lengthy sleevenotes by Lepage look as though they might be very funny, but my French isn’t good enough.

Las nuevas ediciones de…

Rafa Dorado, Margen, no. 8, December 1, 1996

Otra producción de René Lussier, en este caso del año 84 y junto a Robert Marcel Lepage, es Chants et danses du monde inanimé un duelo interpretativo entre los clarinetes y saxo alto de Lepage y las manipulaciones guitarreras de Lussier. En este trabajo, toma cuerpo la obsesion más recurrente del compositor canadiense, la relación enfermiza y casi siempre peligrosa entre la composición y la improvisación. Una sólida producción, a menudo divertida y. Ias más de las veces, caracterizada por una gravedad ceñuda apoyada por el elemento impros isatorio. redondea este disco que incluye 30 minutos de material nuevo grabado en el 96.


GC, Minimal, no. 13, November 13, 1996

Integrado numa colecção temática sugestivamente baptizada com a expressão ‘espèces en voie d’exception’ (espedes em vias de excepção), este oisco regista para a posteridade duas séries de cantares e dancas, concebidos como indidos de expressão artistica de ficticias tribos sobreviventes à era da máquina. A primeira série, Collection 1984, em vias de’exceprção’mais acentuada, reedita as gravacoes originais que ilustraram a inRuência das máquinas sobre as concepções musicais. A segunda, Collecton 1996, acrescenta novas composições e tecnologias que, nesta fantasia antropologica, estendem o humor e a versatlidade dos instrumentos de Robert Marcel Lepage (clarinetes, saxofone alto) e René Lussier (guitarra, podocussões).


Jim Little, Hour, October 17, 1996

This reissue of an album originally recorded in 1984 by clarinettist (and alto sax player) Robert Marcel Lepage and guitarist René Lussier is fleshed out by nine tunes done in ’96. The intimacy of the duo contrasts sharply with the shards of actuellism, creating a vaguely disturbing bun challenging recording in a kind of homage to the anomie of the age of the machine. Lussier’s occasionally industrial-sounding guitar effectively displaces and re-contextualizes Lepage’s sometimes more inside, sometimes more outside, playing. 3/5


GC, Megafon, no. 1, September 1, 1996

Integrado numa colecpao temática sugestivamente bapbzada com a expressáo «espèces en voie d’exception» (espécies em vias de excepçáo), este aisco regista para a posteridade duas séries de cantares e danças, concebidos como indicos de expressáo artistica de ficticias tribos sobrevrventes à era da máquina. A primeira serie, Collection 1984, em vias de’excepçäo’mais acentuada, reedita as gravapoes originais que ilustraram a innuencia das maquinas sobre as concepçòes musicais. A segunda, Colleckon 1996 acrescenta novas composigoes e tecnologias que, nesta fantasia antropologica, estendem o humor e a versatilidade dos instrumentos de Robert Marcel Lepage (clarinetes. saxofone alto) e René Lussier (guitarra, podocussoes)