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Radio ›› Récits de neige
Tryptique musique d’hiver
Récits de neige: La neige, 18m27s [excerpt]
3×CD: Ambiances Magnétiques (2011) AM 904
6 July 2011
By Kurt Gottschalk in The Squid’s Ear (USA), July 6, 2011

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“… this time out her interests in storytelling, both musical and quite literal, are wonderfully evocative.”

For over a decade now, Montréal’s Ensemble SuperMusique has served as a vehicle for the larger-scale ideas of that city’s Ambiances Magnetiques collective. An orchestra adept at improvisation and varying in personnel according to the dictates of the job, it’s a logical outgrowth of the collective which still, somehow, always seems to come as a happy surprise.

Saxophonist Joane Hétu may be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the ensemble. Her compositional ideas are rich and complex, requiring an assemblage of sympathetic colleagues. Her work can be tiny and personal (as in her duet with her husband, saxophonist Jean Derome) or can take the form of sweeping explorations, as in her multi-media collaboration Filature, which took the craft of weaving as a model for both composition and video projection.

For Récits de neige SuperMusique is stripped down to a sextet, including longtime collaborators Derome, Diane Labrosse (accordion and electronics) and percussionist Pierre Tanguay alongside bassist Alexandre St-Onge and Toronto trombonist Scott Thomson for a remarkably diverse cycle of pieces.

The first of the four suites, La neige (The Snow) is comprised of four vocal pieces, both sung and recorded speech with sometimes bombastic accompaniment. The second four-part suite, Jamais froid (Never Cold) is more upbeat, with lyrical play around the word “blanc” (“white”) and a piece that likens snowfall to icing on a cake and a comforter to keep one warm. The texts are all in French, but English translations are provided, and the spirit of the music felt strongly nevertheless, even including some play with vocal sounds. The three parts of Rafales (which translates as “gusts” or “flurries”) are perhaps the most cohesive and most endearing on the disc, with brief verses seeming to love and curse the snow along with more mouth sounds, grunts and utterances, harmonica and jaw harp and stories about winter from Derome, Thomson and Tanguay blended into jazzy and atmospheric tracks.

The last of the four suites is the longest (each runs between 15 and 20 minutes) brings us just to the breaking of spring, alternating between some of the most abstract and unabashedly beautiful music on the disc. Hétu, to her credit, is such an evocative assembler of music and words that the melting snow and budding leaves aren’t cliché but simply the turning of a page.

Récits de neige is not, in fact, her first album of cold-weather music. It might be seen as a sequel to 2001’s Musique d’hiver (Winter Music), a cycle of pieces about the Québécois winter. Or it might just be a product of what a Québécois artist must deal with for a considerable part of the year. Either way, this time out her interests in storytelling, both musical and quite literal, are wonderfully evocative.

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1 June 2011
By Stuart Broomer in Musicworks #110 (Canada), June 1, 2011

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26 April 2011
By Dolf Mulder in Vital #778 (Netherlands), April 26, 2011

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“I enjoyed the interplay of the musicians […] through this emotional work.”

Four new releases from Ambiances Magnetiques. One of them is by veteran Joane Hétu, who worked on a career that more then 25 years now. You may know her from all-women groups Wondeur Brass, Justine and Les Poules. Avant rock was their thing. Gradually Hetu moved however to more abstract territories and profiled herself as a composer. Récits de neige is the third part of a trilogy about winter, this time a very snowy winter. Effectively Hetu evokes and visualizes this climate. Helped out by the Ensemble Supermusique. Prominent is a french spoken text no doubt about winter and snow. The music often plays a servile role for the performance of the texts, and that works tiring from time to time. Many of the pure instrumental parts however, sometimes jazzy and always very inspired, learned me more about the winter. I enjoyed the interplay of the musicians and easily forgot all discomfortable aspects of the winter through this emotional work. Speaking of Danielle Roger Palardy I can repeat the above introduction as she walked a similar route as Hetu. Again we are in the company of a core member of the Montréal “musique actuelle” scene since 1980. She Works as a self-taught percussionist, composer and improviser. Her newest release Pinta, Niña & Maria, has much to offer. It brings together three pieces written for three very different ensembles: GGRIL, Ensemble SuperMusique and ECM+. This way Roger provides us an excellent overview of her new music activities. In the first composition by Roger many dissonants are included, in a context of thick and noisy sounds in part 3, whereas in part 4 and 5 the music is more subtile but again staying close to noisy textures and tensions. The second work blends electronics with acoustical instruments, composed in an more traditional style with rock elements. The third piece starts like a piece of string-based chambermusic, but is mixed with percussive and other sounds of electronic and acoustical origin. With Rouge Ciel we are in the company of younger generation of musicians but not necessarily presented to more up to date music. Bryologie is the third effort by this avant rock group. A band led by Guido Del Fabbro (violin and electronics), and completed by Simon Lapointe (keyboards), Antonin Provost (guitars) and Nemo Venba (trumpet and drums). More then on their earlier records they profile themselves as a rockband. Continuing a line that had more representatives in the past of Ambiances Magnetiques. Now they are most close to Miriodor considering this aspect. One could think from this Rouge Ciel lives in the past, but that does no justice to them. Using forms that we know from the past they are not into a simple retro journey without any phantasy. Far from it. Their instrumental music is rock-based but intelligently combined with improvisation. Although they play with energy and drive, their compositions miss that little extra to make it really worthwhile. The true surprise this time comes from Isaiah Ceccarelli, a drummer, improviser, composer and singer from Montréal. His newest work, Bréviaire d’épuisements, is composed for two singers, two bass clarinets, viola da gamba and solo percussion. It is a collection of short pieces composed in a stripped down manner for texts by poet Marie Deschênes. In contrast with the other three CDs is one chooses for a much more sober approach. From a drummer one expects playing dominated by rhythm. But that is not the case here. In contrast Ceccarelli is more involved in drones and textures, that is illustrated impressively by the opening track. The first of four instrumental interludes that are mixed with seven vocal parts. Like the composition also the singing and playing is very disciplined, giving all the subtleties maximum strength. I don’t know what the poems are about, but the work almost has the effect on me of some kind of prayer. It is not for this association that I liked this one most.

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1 April 2011
By Dionisio Capuano in Blow Up #155 (Italy), April 1, 2011

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“Si succedono così quindici quadri il cui spartito, tipicamente ‘contemporaneo’, ricompone un puzzle di post-impressionismo, jazz (c’è pure, unica composizione non originale, Flakes di Lacy), poesia sonora, bric-a-brac colto.”

Chiudendo una trilogia che si estende su un decennio (Musique d’hiver è del 2001 e Nouvelle musique d’hiver del 2007), la compositrice realizza la sua opera più densa, con riferimenti alla letteratura ed al contesto eco-sociale, ovviamente canadese. Non è inedita, fra gli artisti della foglia d’acero, la peculiare attenzione politica e sociologica. Si pensi a quel manifesto che è Le trésor de la langue di Lussier, o anche all’antologia “-40: Canadian Propaganda Films of the 1940’s Reworked” (co-prodotto dal National Film Board of Canada) che chiamava tipi dell’area elettro-digitale a sonorizzare video ‘di propaganda’ degli anni ’40. In Récits l’inverno è presentato come allegoria polireferenziale e la neve diviene il ‘precipitato’ di sostanza, le cui valenze chimico-fisiche, paesaggistiche e simboliche entrano nei suoni come fonte d’inspirazione e contribuiscono a plasmarne la morfologia. La struttura dell’opera è organizzata in quattro movimenti (La neige, Jamais froid, Rafales e Paysages), a loro volta suddivisi in tre — quattro sets. Si succedono così quindici quadri il cui spartito, tipicamente ‘contemporaneo’, ricompone un puzzle di post-impressionismo, jazz (c’è pure, unica composizione non originale, Flakes di Lacy), poesia sonora, bric-a-brac colto. Per goderne appieno più che il semplice ascolto, occorre una vera e propria esplorazione, la lettura dei testi, un approfondimento sui rimandi e su certe anfibologie terminologiche (il termine ‘bianco’ come ‘pagina bianca’, ‘notte bianca’, ‘arma bianca’). Ci si presenta quindi un disco, per quanto registrato live, che non possiede la forza trascinante di lavori egualmente stratitificati (ad esempio quello della Palardy Roger, in BU#154) e che necessita per l’assimilazione tempi dedicati. C’è, in Paysages, alla fine del percorso, il ricorrente motivo della ‘neve silenziosa’, dalla ‘voce dolce’, che ‘cancella tutte le forme ed i colori’. Tuttavia, per giungere a tale sintesi emozionale occorre dare diverso tempo a questa musica di depositarsi e sciogliersi; ma non è detto che ne abbia merito e diritto. Vi presentiamo così, per ellisse, un interrogativo — pure per noi la questione è aperta — sul suo ‘reale’ valore estetico. Indubitabilmente una miniera culturale e quasi un’enciclopedia emotiva. Ma la sua erudizione finisce per congelare (seppellire sotto la neve…) l’attimo d’illuminazione totalizzante che ogni volta si chiede all’arte.

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1 March 2011
By Marc Chénard in La Scena Musicale (Québec), March 1, 2011

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“il faut saluer Joane Hétu pour son travail conceptuel, même certains passages compositionnels très maîtrisés”

Connue surtout comme improvisatrice et complice de presque toutes les occasions de son conjoint Jean Derome, Joane Hétu vole aussi de ses propres ailes, sa plus ambitieuse initiative étant sa Trilogie de l’hiver, dont le présent compact vient conclure le cycle. Dix ans après la sortie du premier volume (Musiques d’hiver) et quatre ans après le second (Nouvelles musiques d’hiver), ce point d’orgue du triptyque porte bien son titre, car on y entend les musiciens du groupe, voire des tierces parties, racontant à tour de rôle une anecdote personnelle sur la saison. Ces récits constituent en quelque sorte des traits d’unions insérés dans les quinze plages du recueil, regroupées en quatre blocs oscillant entre les 15 à 20 minutes. Lors de l’enregistrement en concert, une série de projections sur écran servaient de complément aux multiples musiques habilement enchevêtrées, dimension ici manquante en dépit des quelques photos (minuscules) incluses dans le livret. Un DVD aurait sans doute rehaussé l’effet global, mais il faut tout de même saluer Joane Hétu pour son travail conceptuel, même certains passages compositionnels très maîtrisés. Notons en terminant que la trilogie complète est disponible dans un coffret à prix spécial.

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1 March 2011
By Gabriel Bélanger in SOCAN, Paroles & Musique #18:1 (Canada), March 1, 2011

Press Clipping

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