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: