Joel Lavoie is a Montréal-based sound artist who’s output on Souvenir encompasses a mix of ambient, acousmatic, synth (Buchla 200), and minimalist influences. While these styles have been combined in various ways previously, Lavoie’s approach has a unique feel, making Souvenir a compelling and understated release.
Across three long tracks, Lavoie layers oscillations, gentle walls, pulses, and environmental sounds. On Souvenirs intermittents, these evolve and grow in intensity, adding cosmic synth lines. Addendum begins with a mid-range drone before moving into a theme reminiscent of Steve Roach or the Berlin School. Marche irréfléchie is a 25-minute coda that adds a double bass player as well as some light discordance. Melodies drift across deep soundscapes with distant crashing, voices, and other effects.
Despite their unconventional sources, there is a certain warmth and spaciousness to Lavoie’s compositions that give them a cinematic texture. With no shortage of ambient music readily available, it takes a strong release to turn heads these days. Souvenir fits the bill.
If one would translate the title of this album, Feu aimant, this would probably give something as ‘magnetic fire’. Indeed, as a fire, this album acts as a magnet for the ears and the eyes. Siamois Synthesis, the name of the new band, also unveils the content of the album: a synthesis of different musical influences such as experimental, rock, techno, folk, ambiant and more, where tracks alternate between a more energetic music and a more floating and meditative one. If its references are quite eclectic, the album is very coherent though, tracks flow naturally one from the other. We could evoke some Cibo Matto from the first years in a less sweetened version mostly because of the voice of Maya Kuroki, or we could also recall of a less dark Arca mostly because of the sometimes very dirty electric guitar of Simon Trottier and of the bass of Sylvain Gagné. The music is very cinematographic, we dream of a show with video, an art where Maxime Perron-Corbeil is excellent, for now you find him at the keyboards and the computer. Perron-Corbeil is a few steps ahead when talking about fire. Seen last year in Toronto, a musical video, Displacement, offered a bonfire, a mesmerizing image that still is glued to my retina since.
The fifth and sixth tracks, TriggerWarning_drumsdrumsdrums and Urizen, follow each other with no stop and are the chore of this recording: a slow but relentless crescendo in a dramatic intensity. Urizen is a mythological character from the literary universe of William Blake, an embodiment of conventional reason and law. A frightening character that Siamois Synthesis renders with a strong realism.
Available in downloadable format or in vinyl LP, Feu aimant deserves many listenings. An album with a good concept, a band of four equally talented musicians who obviously enjoy playing together, a music at the thin edge between experimental and pop which make us believe in a colorful and diverse future for music. Hybrid concepts are good change agents, catalysts for new movements, Siamois Synthesis has everything to get international recognition and we can’t wait for a second album and are impatient to see them on stage.
Means to personify some of the archetypal Commedia dell’arte characters, QB’s interpretation of the suite ranges from the full-fledged corybantic string rubbing on Capitano, the first “story”, to the harmonized and lyrical outpouring which defines Colombina, the subsequent track. From that point on every variety of conventional and extended technique is put to exceptional use. High-pitched jitters squeeze out skittish variations at points, while compelling surges from the lower-pitched strings sometimes reference a sense of high-powered modern swing. Through QB members perform the equivalent of tightrope walking, swaying and stretching timbres, but with enough safety net-like fusion so that there’s no chance of them failing. When personifying Isabella for instance, sawing reflections of one low tone face a pointed counter melody that eventually combines to express multiple tinctures on the color scale. Meantime the lively Zanni is probably the most Balkan of the tracks with its reed-like suggestions. The piece combines rhythmic cello plucks and dynamic violin squeaks to create a slipping and sliding terpsichorean feel. Overall, while cellist Bozzini sometimes fulfills the double bass function with string slaps, angled off-centre and off-key variables from all QB members mean that bouncing col legno emphasis frequently cements the performances. While spiccato string acceleration may dominate the final Ruzzante the dissonant pitches fade into tremolo overlapping signaling the end of the piece and the suite finale. Bagatelles which depend mostly on speed and col legno thumps, only an earlier composition, the multi-part Blanc dominant seems sufficiently fleshed out. Expressive with thinner squeals, the chamber music continuum is challenged throughout with a sneaky sectional counter motif.
Les compositrices et artistes multidisciplinaires Émilie Payeur, Charlotte Clermont et Gabrielle Godbout forment ce qu’il convient d’appeler un «super-groupe» de musique expérimentale dont le nom, Moshi Moshi, évoque l’inspiration de la culture pop japonaise (kawaii) intrinsèque au projet. Leur expérimentation brute et ludique s’érige avec un mélange d’instruments électroniques et électriques, mais c’est surtout la présence de la voix humaine qui nous guide sur l’album, voix chantée comme sur les pétillantes et délicates Chill Golden Lover et TTYS au cœur de l’album, voix échantillonnées et trafiquées un peu partout ailleurs, autant de matériaux qui donnent des contours à l’imaginaire des musiciennes. Même dans les passages les plus bruyants (souvent les plus fascinants, comme We, Dark Party et We Bloom We Shine en conclusion), Moshi Moshi incorpore quelques motifs rythmiques linéaires et quelques fragments mélodiques qui font de Firmament un album qui s’apprivoise sans mal.
Pour faire suite à son excellent album Cabines paru il y a près de deux ans sur Jeunesse Cosmique, Joel Lavoie est de retour avec un incroyable nouveau disque. Toujours plus dense et émouvante, la musique du Montréalais nous chavire encore une fois par sa grande pureté. C’est l’un des plus beaux voyages ambient de 2020.