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Review

Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, 17 juin 2011

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.

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.

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