… this time out her interests in storytelling, both musical and quite literal, are wonderfully evocative. — The Squid’s Ear, USA
This music is progressive in its own way and successful at utilizing the many talents of all of the individuals involved. The handful of spirited solos are the icing on the cake. — Downtown Music Gallery, USA
This box set contains the following items:
- Composer(s): Joane Hétu, Steve Lacy
- Writer(s): Joane Hétu, Dyane Raymond, Gilles Derome
- Performer(s): Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM), Jean Derome, Guillaume Dostaler, Diane Labrosse, Pierre Tanguay, Lori Freedman, Martin Tétreault, Scott Thomson, Alexandre St-Onge
- Cover image: Joane Hétu
- Graphic design: Luc Beauchemin, Jean-François Denis, Joane Hétu
3 × CD
- 1Musique d’hiver (1999-2000), 66:06
- 1La chute, 15:45
- 5On s’les gèle, 17:24
- 11Lumière de février, 17:12
- 15Perdu l’nord, 15:44
Nouvelle musique d’hiver
Récits de neige
- 1Récits de neige (2008)
- 1La neige, 18:27
- 5Jamais froid, 15:31
- 9Rafales, 15:08
- 12Paysages, 19:48
- Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
- AM 904 / 2011
- UCC 771028190423
- Total duration: 202:46
- 128 mm × 128 mm × 26 mm
- 155 g
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In the press
For over a decade now, Montréal’s Ensemble SuperMusique has served as a vehicle for the larger-scale ideas of that city’s Ambiances Magnetiques collective. An orchestra adept at improvisation and varying in personnel according to the dictates of the job, it’s a logical outgrowth of the collective which still, somehow, always seems to come as a happy surprise.
Saxophonist Joane Hétu may be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the ensemble. Her compositional ideas are rich and complex, requiring an assemblage of sympathetic colleagues. Her work can be tiny and personal (as in her duet with her husband, saxophonist Jean Derome) or can take the form of sweeping explorations, as in her multi-media collaboration Filature, which took the craft of weaving as a model for both composition and video projection.
For Récits de neige SuperMusique is stripped down to a sextet, including longtime collaborators Derome, Diane Labrosse (accordion and electronics) and percussionist Pierre Tanguay alongside bassist Alexandre St-Onge and Toronto trombonist Scott Thomson for a remarkably diverse cycle of pieces.
The first of the four suites, La neige (The Snow) is comprised of four vocal pieces, both sung and recorded speech with sometimes bombastic accompaniment. The second four-part suite, Jamais froid (Never Cold) is more upbeat, with lyrical play around the word “blanc” (“white”) and a piece that likens snowfall to icing on a cake and a comforter to keep one warm. The texts are all in French, but English translations are provided, and the spirit of the music felt strongly nevertheless, even including some play with vocal sounds. The three parts of Rafales (which translates as “gusts” or “flurries”) are perhaps the most cohesive and most endearing on the disc, with brief verses seeming to love and curse the snow along with more mouth sounds, grunts and utterances, harmonica and jaw harp and stories about winter from Derome, Thomson and Tanguay blended into jazzy and atmospheric tracks.
The last of the four suites is the longest (each runs between 15 and 20 minutes) brings us just to the breaking of spring, alternating between some of the most abstract and unabashedly beautiful music on the disc. Hétu, to her credit, is such an evocative assembler of music and words that the melting snow and budding leaves aren’t cliché but simply the turning of a page.
Récits de neige is not, in fact, her first album of cold-weather music. It might be seen as a sequel to 2001’s Musique d’hiver (Winter Music), a cycle of pieces about the Québécois winter. Or it might just be a product of what a Québécois artist must deal with for a considerable part of the year. Either way, this time out her interests in storytelling, both musical and quite literal, are wonderfully evocative.
Musique d’hiver: (winter music) pays tribute to the frisky Nordic winds, the blinding luminosity of winter, the February moon, and the craziness of March, in order to communicate the emotional effervescence of winter. A 66-minute piece in four scenes (La chute, On s’les gèle, Lumière de février, Perdu l’nord), Musique d’hiver is arranged for acoustic instruments: piano, voice, flutes, alto sax, accordion, percussion — and electric instruments: synthesizer, sampler, and tape manipulation. It is an invitation to a music ritual for a season of frost and high winds; nakedness, white light, slowness, silence, white noise. A meditative piece, spatially textured, high-pitched, minimalist in words but rich in sonorities blending composition (themes, harmonic structures, shapes) and improvisation (ambient sounds, sound textures, free interpretation), all delivered in a sober, elegant atmosphere. You will be charmed by the freshness of this winter poetry and by this picturesque scene highlighted by acoustic and metaphorical sonorities.
Nouvelle musique d’hiver: a real audio documentary about winter in Quebec constructed in four sections: Joyeux temps (Happy Times), Être dans le vent (Standing in the Wind), La marmotte (The Groundhog) and Calcium sloche (Calcium Slush). Featured here are the musicians of the Ensemble Super Musique: Jean Derome on flutes, objects & samples, Catherine Dostaler on piano & synth, Joane Hetu on alto sax, voice & direction, Diane Labrosse on accordion & sampler, Lori Freedman on clarinets, Martin Tetreault on turntables, Gilles Derome on narration and Pierre Tanguay on drums. Each section describes a part of the winter with narration in French; English translation included in the liner notes. The difficulties and occasional happy moments of winter are described in Joyeux temps (Happy Times). It is the actual sounds that do the best in evoking the realties of winter with stark flutes, sax sonics, vocal snippets, layers of samples, piano bits and clarinet swirls. The closest thing I can compare to this is The Residents’ ‘Eskimo’ album, another bleak yet astonishing disc of alien wonders. Joane does a splendid job of directing this group, as each sound seems filled with meaning, like a great soundtrack to a marvelous movie for our minds.
Récits de neige: This disc is about winter and the different ways that snow effects those who live in Quebec. Ms. Hetu is a successful sonic sorceress who has a way getting her ensemble to focus on and evoke the spirit of multi-dimensional winters. I know of the stress and strain of having to shovel the snow two or more times a day since my girlfriend lives up in Quebec and has to deal with it throughout their long and difficult winters. The eerie sounds of cold winds and ghost-like voices hiss and float throughout the first piece. Joane writes strong, swirling parts for the horns peppered with selective sampler spice and intricate rhythm team inter-action. Although there are some fifteen shorter tracks here, the entire work is continuous and connected by an inner thread. Many of the pieces feature different spoken word vocalists, each describing a different aspect of the winter. This includes the dozen different Inuit words for snow. The music and words have a cinematic feel, evoking a plethora of feelings about the winter and how it effects us. This music sounds as if it is being conducted since every sound is so well placed and different sections deal with seemingly structured changes in direction. This music is progressive in its own way and successful at utilizing the many talents of all of the individuals involved. The handful of spirited solos are the icing on the cake.
Four new releases from Ambiances Magnetiques. One of them is by veteran Joane Hétu, who worked on a career that more then 25 years now. You may know her from all-women groups Wondeur Brass, Justine and Les Poules. Avant rock was their thing. Gradually Hetu moved however to more abstract territories and profiled herself as a composer. Récits de neige is the third part of a trilogy about winter, this time a very snowy winter. Effectively Hetu evokes and visualizes this climate. Helped out by the Ensemble Supermusique. Prominent is a french spoken text no doubt about winter and snow. The music often plays a servile role for the performance of the texts, and that works tiring from time to time. Many of the pure instrumental parts however, sometimes jazzy and always very inspired, learned me more about the winter. I enjoyed the interplay of the musicians and easily forgot all discomfortable aspects of the winter through this emotional work. Speaking of Danielle Roger Palardy I can repeat the above introduction as she walked a similar route as Hetu. Again we are in the company of a core member of the Montréal “musique actuelle” scene since 1980. She Works as a self-taught percussionist, composer and improviser. Her newest release Pinta, Niña & Maria, has much to offer. It brings together three pieces written for three very different ensembles: GGRIL, Ensemble SuperMusique and ECM+. This way Roger provides us an excellent overview of her new music activities. In the first composition by Roger many dissonants are included, in a context of thick and noisy sounds in part 3, whereas in part 4 and 5 the music is more subtile but again staying close to noisy textures and tensions. The second work blends electronics with acoustical instruments, composed in an more traditional style with rock elements. The third piece starts like a piece of string-based chambermusic, but is mixed with percussive and other sounds of electronic and acoustical origin. With Rouge Ciel we are in the company of younger generation of musicians but not necessarily presented to more up to date music. Bryologie is the third effort by this avant rock group. A band led by Guido Del Fabbro (violin and electronics), and completed by Simon Lapointe (keyboards), Antonin Provost (guitars) and Nemo Venba (trumpet and drums). More then on their earlier records they profile themselves as a rockband. Continuing a line that had more representatives in the past of Ambiances Magnetiques. Now they are most close to Miriodor considering this aspect. One could think from this Rouge Ciel lives in the past, but that does no justice to them. Using forms that we know from the past they are not into a simple retro journey without any phantasy. Far from it. Their instrumental music is rock-based but intelligently combined with improvisation. Although they play with energy and drive, their compositions miss that little extra to make it really worthwhile. The true surprise this time comes from Isaiah Ceccarelli, a drummer, improviser, composer and singer from Montréal. His newest work, Bréviaire d’épuisements, is composed for two singers, two bass clarinets, viola da gamba and solo percussion. It is a collection of short pieces composed in a stripped down manner for texts by poet Marie Deschênes. In contrast with the other three CDs is one chooses for a much more sober approach. From a drummer one expects playing dominated by rhythm. But that is not the case here. In contrast Ceccarelli is more involved in drones and textures, that is illustrated impressively by the opening track. The first of four instrumental interludes that are mixed with seven vocal parts. Like the composition also the singing and playing is very disciplined, giving all the subtleties maximum strength. I don’t know what the poems are about, but the work almost has the effect on me of some kind of prayer. It is not for this association that I liked this one most.
Chiudendo una trilogia che si estende su un decennio (Musique d’hiver è del 2001 e Nouvelle musique d’hiver del 2007), la compositrice realizza la sua opera più densa, con riferimenti alla letteratura ed al contesto eco-sociale, ovviamente canadese. Non è inedita, fra gli artisti della foglia d’acero, la peculiare attenzione politica e sociologica. Si pensi a quel manifesto che è Le trésor de la langue di Lussier, o anche all’antologia “-40: Canadian Propaganda Films of the 1940’s Reworked” (co-prodotto dal National Film Board of Canada) che chiamava tipi dell’area elettro-digitale a sonorizzare video ‘di propaganda’ degli anni ’40. In Récits l’inverno è presentato come allegoria polireferenziale e la neve diviene il ‘precipitato’ di sostanza, le cui valenze chimico-fisiche, paesaggistiche e simboliche entrano nei suoni come fonte d’inspirazione e contribuiscono a plasmarne la morfologia. La struttura dell’opera è organizzata in quattro movimenti (La neige, Jamais froid, Rafales e Paysages), a loro volta suddivisi in tre — quattro sets. Si succedono così quindici quadri il cui spartito, tipicamente ‘contemporaneo’, ricompone un puzzle di post-impressionismo, jazz (c’è pure, unica composizione non originale, Flakes di Lacy), poesia sonora, bric-a-brac colto. Per goderne appieno più che il semplice ascolto, occorre una vera e propria esplorazione, la lettura dei testi, un approfondimento sui rimandi e su certe anfibologie terminologiche (il termine ‘bianco’ come ‘pagina bianca’, ‘notte bianca’, ‘arma bianca’). Ci si presenta quindi un disco, per quanto registrato live, che non possiede la forza trascinante di lavori egualmente stratitificati (ad esempio quello della Palardy Roger, in BU#154) e che necessita per l’assimilazione tempi dedicati. C’è, in Paysages, alla fine del percorso, il ricorrente motivo della ‘neve silenziosa’, dalla ‘voce dolce’, che ‘cancella tutte le forme ed i colori’. Tuttavia, per giungere a tale sintesi emozionale occorre dare diverso tempo a questa musica di depositarsi e sciogliersi; ma non è detto che ne abbia merito e diritto. Vi presentiamo così, per ellisse, un interrogativo — pure per noi la questione è aperta — sul suo ‘reale’ valore estetico. Indubitabilmente una miniera culturale e quasi un’enciclopedia emotiva. Ma la sua erudizione finisce per congelare (seppellire sotto la neve…) l’attimo d’illuminazione totalizzante che ogni volta si chiede all’arte.
Connue surtout comme improvisatrice et complice de presque toutes les occasions de son conjoint Jean Derome, Joane Hétu vole aussi de ses propres ailes, sa plus ambitieuse initiative étant sa Trilogie de l’hiver, dont le présent compact vient conclure le cycle. Dix ans après la sortie du premier volume (Musiques d’hiver) et quatre ans après le second (Nouvelles musiques d’hiver), ce point d’orgue du triptyque porte bien son titre, car on y entend les musiciens du groupe, voire des tierces parties, racontant à tour de rôle une anecdote personnelle sur la saison. Ces récits constituent en quelque sorte des traits d’unions insérés dans les quinze plages du recueil, regroupées en quatre blocs oscillant entre les 15 à 20 minutes. Lors de l’enregistrement en concert, une série de projections sur écran servaient de complément aux multiples musiques habilement enchevêtrées, dimension ici manquante en dépit des quelques photos (minuscules) incluses dans le livret. Un DVD aurait sans doute rehaussé l’effet global, mais il faut tout de même saluer Joane Hétu pour son travail conceptuel, même certains passages compositionnels très maîtrisés. Notons en terminant que la trilogie complète est disponible dans un coffret à prix spécial.
For decades now, the SuperMusique crew have been poetically transforming the minutiae of daily life into the magical. These warm hibernal tales arrive just in time to render winter doldrums obsolete. With captivating images of the geometry of snowflakes, disappearing roads and cabins in the woods (bilingual translations included), you almost forget that you are listening to some of Montréal’s top avant jazz musicians — Jean Derome, Scott Thomson, Diane Labrosse, Alexandre St-Onge, Pierre Tanguay — as they toss angular snowballs around the winter wonderland. 9/10