LE VENT DU NORD – Territoires (Borealis BCD258)

TerriitoiresLe Vent Du Nord are back on tour and with a new album which is always good news. Territoires sees the band expanded to a quintet with André Brunet, poached from La Bottine Souriante, making his presence felt with three compositions.

The band has evolved in subtle ways since their previous studio album, Têtu, some four years ago but at their heart remains the history and old songs of their native Quebec, mixed with their own compositions. Sometimes it’s hard to know where the old ends and new begins particularly when they blend a traditional song with an original tune. The first song, ‘Le Pays De Samuel’, pays tribute to Samuel de Champlain, a figure little known outside Canada who founded New France and the City of Quebec. The song was written by Nicolas Boulerice as was the next, ‘Adieu Du Village’, released as a single last year. The song tells of a man who killed his lover but was spared execution because the hangman’s rope broke. You would have thought that they would just get another. This track is typical of the band’s style – foot percussion, jew’s harp and massed voices on the chorus.

The instrumental set, ‘Cotillon Du Capitaine’ sounds not unlike an American country dance, apart from the percussion and jew’s harp, until Bouderice’s jazzy piano takes over in the second half and you begin to suspect that Le Vent Du Nord are looking towards new horizons. The a capella ‘Louisbourg’ tells of the fall of the first French-Canadian city on Cape Breton. It’s now a museum and there you can learn how the British cheated by hauling their cannons over impassable ground to bombard the city from above. This and the lovely, slow ‘La Mère À L’Échafaud’ which follows suggest a new seriousness about the band.

Several times I gave up trying to write and just let the album play. Territoires is the sort of album that sweeps you along on a wave of pleasure and it may be Le Vent Du Nord’s best work

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.leventdunord.com

‘Adieu Du Village’ – official video:

Le Vent du Nord – new album

Le Vent Du Nord

Long ago, Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer of what is now Eastern Canada, had a dream: that in the new territory he had explored, all might raise their voices together, indigenous and European, of all faiths, a chorus of different perspectives, cultures, and ideas. It was a dream forgotten, deferred, but one that resonates with where Canadians find themselves now.

Le Vent du Nord, feisty torch bearers of Quebecois traditional music, bring this dream (‘Le Pays de Samuel’) and others to life on Territoires (Borealis Records) the group’s richest, most intriguing album to date. From the plight of New France (‘Louisbourg’) to progressive social changes (‘Evolution Tranquille’) a nod to the mid-century quiet revolution that led to Quebec’s rebirth, from mysterious monsters (‘Chaousaro’) to love’s yearnings (‘Le Soir Arrive’), the now five-person ensemble travels far and wide.

“We wanted to explore the quest for territories, physical or internal, or territories that don’t exist yet,” says fiddler Olivier Demers. “They are also impressions, colours and sentiments, a way of feeling, extreme joy or deep sadness.” The new album has sparked an entirely new show around these themes, a show that will be showcased at Folk Alliance International in Montreal. (the band was awarded Folk Artist of the Year at FAI in 2006!)

Le Vent du Nord’s dream has always been to bring a contemporary, highly original sensibility to the songs and melodies preserved in archives or treasured in family troves. Through thoughtful engagement with songs’ stories and artful arrangements, the ensemble pushes Quebec folk music forward, with an ear open to the world and its current travails. This means finding timely messages in long-lost tales, crafting tight and moving vocal harmonies, and getting whirling dance tunes still cherished in many towns and families to groove hard.

“We’re really added a bit of groovy stuff to this album,” says fiddler and foot tapper André Brunet, who recently joined the group after years with Quebecois legends La Bottine Souriante,“and several songs have a riff with a bouzouki and bass. We’ve left things more open, skipping the answers in the traditional call and response sections and putting a bit of effects on the lead vocal. The sound turned out really rich.”

The richness has developed noticeably over time. With nearly 2,000 concerts, two Juno Awards, hundreds of tours across the globe, and ten albums to their credit, the band has had time to come into its own. “We are proud to call ourselves an established ensemble,” says Demers. “We’re mature and are creating at the peak of our confidence and power.”

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‘Adieu Du Village’ – official video:

SINGLES BAR 37 – The year’s final round-up of EPs and singles

Singles Bar 37Together We’re Lost is the latest EP from Brighton’s JACKO HOOPER. Its themes are frustration and loneliness, appropriate to the time of year some might say. The lead track, ‘Sidelines’, starts out starkly with Jacko’s voice sounding oddly sinister but it is built up by producer Josh Trinnaman’s electronica band Luo. ‘Trust In Me Always’ finds Josh being swallowed up by the band at the end and ‘The Long Road’ is bleak and echoey but with a sumptuous arrangement over acoustic guitar closing with synthesised brass. Finally, ‘I’m Yours’ begins with Jacko talking on his phone over keyboards which take him into the song. This is a fascinating, haunting collection of songs.
https://jackohooper.bandcamp.com/

NICHOLAH comes originally from Cumbria but, like all young, aspiring artists, she is settled in London. ‘Waiting On You’ is her new single – a song that has been compared to Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’ – a song of love that seems just out of reach. Nicholah plays mighty steel-strung guitar that reflects Mitchell’s dulcimer just a little and she has a voice that is powerful enough to carry any song.
www.nicolahmusic.com

DAVID GUNAWARDANA hails from Hertfordshire and derives his songs from the acoustic traditions on both sides of the Atlantic. His debut EP, Figures & Faces, to be released in a couple of weeks, showcases his varied styles from the short orchestral opener, ‘Calling’ to the stripped back simplicity of ‘The Sages’. ‘Where She Walks’ is particularly pretty and the acoustic guitar behind ‘Evening Song’ nods its head to early Bob Dylan. David seems able to create his own mythology and draw the listener into his own travels.
www.davidgunawardana.com

‘Love Is Hard Enough Without The Winter’ is a new single from LUKE SITAL-SINGH who has just completed a short European tour. Gently reverbed guitar and minimal percussion support a clear, fresh voice and a contrasting solo on the bass strings. Its melancholy lyrics open with a startling couplet that sounds almost sinister at first.
www.lukesitalsingh.com

Quebecois funsters LE VENT DU NORD release a new single, ‘Adieu Du Village’, a traditional song about a man who kills his lover but is spared when the hangman’s rope breaks. It’s packed with foot percussion, fiddle, bouzouki and a pulsing Jew’s harp. Nicolas Boulerice provided a new tune and the band have a new album and UK tour next year.
https://leventdunord.com/en/

CAFÉ SPICE are a young female harmony trio from Manchester and ‘Lauren’ is their debut single. Their original composition begins in a capella style before acoustic guitar leads in other instruments and before you know it they’re going for a big finish. A name to watch, we think.
https://www.facebook.com/cafespiceband/

‘The Story Is…’ is the title track of SKINNY LISTER’s forthcoming album and is a complete contrast to its predecessor, ’38 Minutes’. Pretty, magnificent and sweeping aren’t the sort of adjectives one would normally associate with the band but they sum up this fine song perfectly.
https://skinnylister.com/