Canard branchu: Dans un marécage près de chez vous

Robert Marcel Lepage

Chapeau! Vital, Netherlands

The music stands on its own quietly inventive and thoughtfully played enchantments. Downtown Music Gallery, USA

There is a swamp and in this swamp there are all kinds of animals and insects and bugs and in this swamp everyone plays their little music the frog croaks and it’s a terrible sound and the mosquito buzzes and it does sound as nothing at all and the grass-snake whistles but it does not even make a note and the leech sucks and the sound of the suction sickens everyone and everybody complains to everybody else but nobody wants to stop because everyone likes the sound they’re making the frog finds itself quite bucolic and the mosquito thinks of itself as quite funky and the grass-snake believes itself to be avant-garde and the leech thinks it is sexy and then everybody accuses everybody else to be jealous and goes to see the heron which is believed to have a very musical ear to complain about each other and to show how they all make beautiful music but all these folks start to yell yet again at each other and the mosquito bites the leech and the frog swallows the mosquito and the grass-snake swallows the frog and the leech clings to the grass-snake and sucks its blood but there is so much blood because of the mosquito’s blood and the frog’s and the grass-snake’s that the leech explodes and it makes a big boom and upon hearing that the heron says: Well, E flat.


CD (AM 216)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 216
  • 2013
  • UCC 771028121625
  • Total duration: 40:05
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 35 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 929, April 21, 2014

A new bunch of CDs from Ambiances Magnetiques. From Goldstein and Wiens we know earlier releases as a trio with Ganesh Anandan and John Heward. This time Jean Derome is their partner. As a trio however they have already performed for a longer time. On april 12th, 2013 they recorded this crystal clear recording in the studio. Goldstein playing violin, Wiens mainly prepared electric guitar plus kalimba, and Derome alto sax, flute and objects. Intense and concentrated improvisations with lots of colour and sounds. Fine interplay and interaction between these reputed players, with some breath-taking moments. Like Derome, Robert Marcel Lepage is one of the founding members of Ambiances Magnétiques. He didn’t release many albums in the last few years if I’m right, but now he strikes back with two releases. He presents the more light-hearted and accessible part of the Montréal musical spectrum. Le lait maternel contains 18 compositions Lepage wrote between 2003 and 2010 for film. It has some very catchy tunes like the jumpy Le Rock du Bungalow that evokes orchestral film music from the 60s. Good time music! Very friendly music, tapping from a diversity of styles and idioms. Pieces on Canard Branchu leave some more room for improvisation, but in essence this is also an album of melodious and harmonious music, typical for the Ambiances scene since the 80s. Again performed for a big ensemble of 9 musicians. So both albums offer a bunch of well-defined tunes, dressed up in fine arrangements giving voice to many different instruments and sounds. They may not surprise you, but will sure entertain you. With the new release by Palardy we turn again to a more serious face of this scene. Again we are dealing with one of the early member of the Ambiances scene. Self-taught Danielle Palardy Roger made her mark since the early 80s with groups like Justine, Wondeur Brass and Les Poules. In the last few years — since about 1998 — she concentrates on writing for Ensemble SuperMusique, an ensemble that was founded by her. Compared with earlier projects by her, this one is most close to composed new music and deals with the play between improvisation and composition. Le Caillou is one of her oldest and most played works for this ensemble. It “is a simple game piece in which the players pass the musical development of the piece to each other while building up a slow crescendo; another set of instructions tells the musicians to trace back their steps and play as exactly as possible what they did play the first time around”, Roger explains. The one that surprised me most this time is Quartetski doing Stravinsky. Quartetski is a project founded by Pierre-Yves Martel in 2007, focused on reinterpreting works of classical composers in an improvised setting. They reworked compositions by Prokofiev, Purcell, Satie, Ellington, Cage, a.o. Because of the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring they decided to chose this work. Besides Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, objects), we hear Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums), Bernard Falaise (electric guitar), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet, soprano sax) and Joshua Zubot (violin). Marvellous job in transposing this orchestral work for small ensemble. Martel started from Stravinsky’s two-piano version of this composition. His re-working leaves the original work in tact concerning spirit, energy and drive that is in the original piece. Adding room for improvisation. Chapeau!



Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, April 18, 2014

This disc features six clarinetists: Jean-Sébastien Leblanc, Pierre-Emmanuel Poizat, André Moisan, Guillaume Bourque, Lori Freedman & Robert Marcel Lepage on assorted clarinets plus Nicolas Borycki on organ (3 tracks), Fraser Hollins on contrabass and Pierre Tanguay on drums. Mr. Lepage is a clarinet player with more than a dozen discs out on the Ambiances Magnétiques label, each one with a different theme or strategy. There appears to a theme for this disc but since I still can’t read French, I can’t tell you what that theme is. As a big fan of the clarinet myself, I really dig what few clarinet ensembles I’ve been able to check out. This one is equally formidable thanks to the strong writing of Lepage and the spirited playing of the clarinets and rhythm section. Lepage composes quirky, playful melodies which seem deceptively simple yet there is more going on than what we hear on the surface. Some pieces are just the clarinets with weaving their elegant lines. I dig the way Mr. Borycki’s sly yet cheesy organ adds a certain lounge-like charm to Rainettes à la brunante. The ever-inspired Lori Freedman takes a couple of fine bass clarinet solos here, which is yet another reason to savor this gem. What I like most about this disc is that none of it is very avant or overly adventurous. The music stands on its own quietly inventive and thoughtfully played enchantments.

The music stands on its own quietly inventive and thoughtfully played enchantments.


Massimiliano Busti, Blow Up, no. 191, April 1, 2014

La grazia, la leggerezza della musica di Lepage sono frutto di una perfetta sintesi fra vena melodica e ricerca timbrica, ideale rappresentazione di quella scena che a Montreal da oltre trent’anni continua a produrre nuovi talenti e lavori di spessore. Il bestiario da lui narrato in Canard Branchu si sviluppa attraverso una serie di composizioni flessuose e articolate in cui elementi di jazz notturno e sofisticato (Rainettes à la brunante), spirali di organo che volteggiano in balli inebrianti (Fondation: d’où venons-nous?), intermezzi per clarinetto solista (Les pipeurs de sable) e miniature di maestosa bellezza offuscate da un impercettibile trattamento elettronico (Le pelleteur de nuages) compongono un quadro policromatico assimilabile ai lavori pubblicati da Frith per la Ralph Records all’inizio degli anni ‘80.

La stessa straordinaria poliedricità contraddistingue anche Le Lait Maternel, un ideale percorso attraverso tutto ciò che nella tradizione americana ha ispirato la scrittura dell’autore fra folk, gospel, bluegrass, repertorio orchestrale e bandistico, jazz, rock ed elettronica. La sezione iniziale dell’album si compone di cinque brani venati di ironia, ambientazioni lounge da ologramma (Le Robert du bungalow), twist scanzonati e bagliori sixties (Le Rock du bungalow), poi il tono cambia registro passando in rassegna minimalismo (Dépassements de coûts au bureau), l’elettronica di Perrey & Kingsley (Le Mangeur de gazon), blues (L’Avenue Charles Ives), ambientazioni notturne da soundtrack lynchiana (Milles feuilles) e una commovente melanconia che richiama alla mente Rota e Morricone (Un Choral appalachien, prise I). Classe superiore e grandissima inventiva: una meraviglia.

Classe superiore e grandissima inventiva: una meraviglia.

Something In The Air: Reed Blends

Ken Waxman, The WholeNote, no. 19:5, March 3, 2014

Reed sections have been part of jazz’s performing vernacular since its earliest days. But only with the freedom that arose with modern improvised music in the 1960s were the woodwinds able to stand on their own. In the right hands, with the right ideas, a group consisting only of saxophones and/or clarinets can produce satisfying sounds that don’t need the intervention of a rhythm section or even brass for additional colors. All of the fine discs here demonstrate that. (…)

The difference may result from geography or personality, but in sharp contrast to the concentration on solemn experimentation which characterize the Double Trio and Keefe Jackson CDs, Montreal clarinetist Robert Marcel Lepage’s Canard branchu in the main promotes unselfconscious merriment. With his reputation for creating soundtracks, Lepage sets his compositions here in a fanciful swamp populated by the insects, birds and amphibians. Moreover while many tracks on the other CDs appear to be evolving improvisations, Lepage’s are self-contained, songs. Nonetheless while the sounds may be decorous and controlled, they’re not formal and mix good fun alongside technically clever improvisations. The band make up is different as well. The core band is Jean-Sébastien Leblanc and Pierre Emmanuel Poizat on clarinets, Guillaume Bourque, bass clarinet, André Moisan on basset-horn plus bassist Fraser Hollins, and drummer Pierre Tanguay, with Nicolas Borycki adding electric organ on three tracks. Bass clarinetist Lori Freedman joins the band on one track and plays another unaccompanied; while the composer plays solo and duets with Moisan on two different cuts. With steady rhythm section work, the others are freed for supple, contrapuntal work, resembling the score for a kids’ show on one hand and Duke Ellington’s arrangements for clarinet trio on the other. Characteristic is Le Pelleteur de nuages, whose church-like harmonies courtesy of Borycki underlie a theme that touches on Can’t Help Falling in Love plus Creole Love Call. Bourque shines on Maringouins en escadron as tremolo horn parts sound as if they come from an accordion; whereas Fondation: qui sommes-nous is a pseudo-tango that contrasts the basset horn’s serene chalumeau with slick drum patterns. Chalumeau is also in use on Mi-figue, mi-bémol, Lepage’s solo feature, that improvises succinctly on the melody line, whereas on her own feature, Freedman’s variants on Le Grand héron et la demoiselle use hectoring cries, irregular vibrations, split tones and spetrofluctuation to deconstruct the theme into individual atoms, then reconstructs in a pointillist fashion. (…)

In trio or larger formations, each of these CDs confirms the long-term viability of woodwind groups creating exhilarating sounds.

In trio or larger formations, each of these CDs confirms the long-term viability of woodwind groups creating exhilarating sounds.


Réjean Beaucage, Voir, January 21, 2014

La discographie bien fournie du compositeur Robert M Lepage s’est augmentée de deux disques ces derniers mois et le clarinettiste se fait plaisir sur celui-ci en réunissant un ensemble au sein duquel son instrument déploie un large éventail de couleurs. Il en joue lui-même sur deux pièces, comme Lori Freedman, mais Jean-Sébastien Leblanc, Pierre-Emmanuel Poizat, Guillaume Bourque et André Moisan (ce dernier au cor de basset) sont au cœur de l’ensemble, accompagnés par Pierre Tanguay (batterie) et Fraser Hollins (contrebasse); Nicolas Borycki ajoute une touche électronique légère et très appropriée sur trois titres. Des musiques très imagées, comme les titres qui les coiffent, qui nous emmènent au cirque avec les acrobates ou dans des boisés humides, avec les canards.

Des musiques très imagées…

Listening Diary

François Couture, Monsieur Délire, January 17, 2014

So, it’s seems real: Robert Marcel Lepage is back. Let’s rejoice! Last fall he released his first CD in eight years: Le lait maternel (a collection of film music scores recorded in the last decade). Then, in December, came Canard branchu, a bona fide group record, his most substantial album since 2003’s La machine à explorer le tempo. Canard branchu consists of 14 lively, animated, bouncy compositions of 2 to 4 minutes, all nicely twisted — just a bit, just enough. A blend of jazz and this musique actuelle Ambiances Magnétiques introduced to the world in the 1980s. No, I’m not being nostalgic; it’s just that this record is a strong comeback, in tune with the Lepage heard on Chants et danses du monde inanimé, Adieu Leonardo!, and Les Clarinettes ont-elles un escalier de secours? Here, he entrusted his music to a group of four clarinet players (among them: Guillaume Bourque and Lori Freedman), whom he joins occasionally, a horn player, and a rhythm section (organ, doublebass, drums). The organist also does some subtle treatment work. The music flows naturally, in turns funny and moving, and listening to this CD is pure unabashed delight.

The music flows naturally, in turns funny and moving, and listening to this CD is pure unabashed delight.