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:

LE VENT DU NORD live at South Hill Park, Bracknell

Le Vent Du Nord
Photograph by Dai jeffries

Smoke swirled over the darkened stage as four shadowy figures took their places. The sound began with the drone of a hurdy-gurdy, joined by fiddle, jew’s harp and voice and lastly bouzouki. Finally the lights came up to reveal Le Vent Du Nord in all their splendour. It was an uncharacteristically sombre opening to an evening that was full of laughs.

I usually come home from a gig with a fairly accurate set-list and other notes about who did what. No chance here. The band only introduced a few of their pieces and then usually in rapid French. I fell back on plan B and tried to blag a set-list from keyboardist Nicolas Boulerice but they don’t use one. He did offer to write one up for me, though, and that’s not an offer you get every day. They did tell us that most of the material would come from their most recent album, Têtu, as did ‘Confédération’, the first song they announced by name, having a dig at Anglophone Canadians in the process.

In fact, the announcements in the first half took the form of a debate, which apparently the band had, about whether Têtu should have a terminal “s”. Everyone had to have a say in turn and the running joke got funnier and funnier. I did figure out the unaccompanied ‘La March Des Iroquois’ and ‘Petit Rêve IX’, an almost orchestral piece which begins with a lovely guitar solo played by its composer, fiddler Olivier Demers and they closed the first set with an oldie, ‘Lanlaire’.

Several things stuck in the mind after the gig. The first is the interplay of the four voices. They can stack up harmonies, pick up lines from each other and occasionally sing over each other. The second is that they do the same with melodies, passing a tune from fiddle to melodeon, to hurdy-gurdy and even jew’s harp. Finally comes the energy and fun they bring to their music. Quebecois music is, to say the least, lively and they throw everything they have into it. I was surprised that Demers, who is responsible for most of the foot percussion, was still standing at the end.

The second set opened with ‘Le Cœur De Ma Mère’ and the time just flew past. There was a bizarre moment when Demers played us a country song in French – from his iPhone – before the band sang an unaccompanied and rather more stately version. ‘Forillon’ is one of their more serious songs and they did it full justice. This isn’t a history lesson but you should look up the story. Nico introduced a song with a long, involved story about a song he found in his attic in a hand-written manuscript, learned it and performed it in France only to be told that it was a famous Parisian song that may have derived from mediaeval English. It seems that his “manuscript” was probably copied down from the radio! It was a love song but Nico neglected to name it.

Le Vent Du Nord
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

After a wild instrumental finish, they encored with the traditional ‘Vive L’Amour’ and another unaccompanied and unannounced song – perhaps I should have taken Nico up on his offer. Their performance richly deserved the standing ovation and the cheers they received. Do try to hear them while they are on tour here.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://leventdunord.com/en/

We’re spoiling you now – four live songs from Le Vent Du Nord:

LE VENT DU NORD – Symphonique (TRCD 3029)

Now, here’s a band that, although ‘folk’ based aren’t too worried to put a slightly commercial twist to their performance. Incorporating a bit of jazz and with the help of a (predominantly) strings based orchestra this is a seriously well produced recording. With the component parts of the band Nicolas Boulerice (hurdy-gurdy), Olivier Demers (fiddle), Simon Beaudry (guitar) and Rejean Brunet (accordion) and the addition of Tom Myron’s orchestral arrangements Le Vent Du Nord stray into territory previously explored by the likes of Shaun Davey and Bill Whelan. Not hoping to sound rude, this is the kind of grand statement I enjoy listening to (preferably armed with a decent set of headphones!). Hailing from Quebec and with the vocals sung in French you might think this would be a distraction to an anglophile like me but when the performance is presented with such passion the language barrier is soon forgotten. OK, so I might not understand a word of it but the driving determination of these musicians/singers has to be admired and when you’re given free reign to indulge (if that’s the right word?) this wildly expansive sound proves very impressive! There’s no getting away from it…if you thought you might not enjoy a recording you can’t understand lyrically…think again and you’ll find yourself invigorated and with a beaming smile on your face!

PETE FYFE

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD
Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD
Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist Web link: http://leventdunord.com/en/the-band/