VISHTÈN – Horizons (PTVISH18)

HorizonsThe East Coast of Canada is a mix of cultures that have retained their ancestral background whilst forming an overall whole.  There are influences from all parts of the British Isles and France.  The French influence is still very strong, especially in the area still referred to as Acadie and music plays a big part in that tradition.  Vishtèn hail from Prince Edward Island where this mixing is still evident today in accents and names that vary from town to town.  Horizons, Vishtèn’s sixth album,  reflects these different influences and more besides.  It is, in the very best sense of the word, an album based on tradition but one that adapts to the current world and is ready to move into the future.

Vishtèn are multi-instrumentalists Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc and Pascal Miousse.  For over a decade they’ve been playing and writing music based on their backgrounds but also picking up influence from the Celtic sounds of the Canadian east and mixing in rock and indie-folk.  All of that is represented, there’s even a bit of swing, in the eleven tracks on the album which is always a good sign that the music is evolving and developing.

The majority of the eleven tracks on Horizons are based on traditional Arcadian songs and all lyrics are in French.  With a bit of time and Google Translate I could have turned them into English but why?  Instead I let the lyrics become part of the song, the other advantage is that the emotions of the piece become much clearer and you get a better feel for the range on display.

The album opens with ‘Elle Tempête’, an adaptation of a traditional song with a driving fiddle backing that immediately gets the feet tapping.  They’re going to stay that way for most of the album.  Following up ‘J’aime Vraiment Ton Accent’ are two reels, the first led by accordian and piano which is an unusual combination that brings in a jazz feel, the second is a more usual fiddle led piece.

There are eleven tracks on the album and they’re all good, so it’s difficult to pick out the highlights but I particularly enjoyed ‘L’hemite’, again an up tempo piece and making good use of foot percussion by Emanuelle Leblanc.  For those of you who’ve not come across this before it’s big part of French Canadian music and best described as sitting down tap dancing, which really drives a tune along.

Following it is another instrumental piece written by Pastelle and changes pace from the previous tracks.  It’s a lyrical piece, almost an air, led by the flute and based on her grandfather’s stories of mermaids.  This change of pace and styles is something that occurs throughout the album a very enjoyable listen.

The mix of instruments on the album is also impressive, all members of the band are multi-instrumentalists and whilst only Emmanuelle and Pastelle add vocals their voices are well balanced, giving good harmonies.

It’s an album I thoroughly enjoyed listening to and I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys traditional music with a difference to it.  It isn’t just another Celtic album but has a flavour of that sets it apart.

The album can be downloaded or purchased in hard copy through the artist’s website and there’s a tour of Scotland and England in between Jan 24th and Feb 10th to coincide with the UK release date of 25th January

Tony Birch

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 Artist’s website: http://vishten.net/

‘J’aime Vraiment Ton Accent’ – live: