|A recent release from the ever-prolific Joane Hétu , the work "Musique d’hiver" (winter music) pays tribute to the frisky Nordic winds, the blinding luminosity of winter, the February moon, and the craziness of March, in order to communicate the emotional effervescence of winter.
A 60-minute piece in four scenes (La chute, On se les gèle, Lumière de février, J’ai perdu le nord), "Musique d’hiver" is arranged for acoustic instruments — piano, voice, flutes, alto sax, accordion, percussion — and electric instruments — synthesizer, sampler, and tape manipulation.
It is an invitation to a music ritual for a season of frost and high winds; nakedness, white light, slowness, silence, white noise. A meditative piece, spatially textured, high-pitched, minimalist in words but rich in sonorities blending composition (themes, harmonic structures, shapes) and improvisation (ambient sounds, sound textures, free interpretation), all delivered in a sober, elegant atmosphere.
You will be charmed by the freshness of this winter poetry and by this picturesque scene highlighted by acoustic and metaphorical sonorities.
This album stands aside in Joane Hétu’s discography. Even though the lineup is similar to the one in her avant rock group Castor et Compagnie (Jean Derome, Diane Labrosse, Pierre Tanguay, plus Guillaume Dostaler), Musique d’hiver (Winter Music) showcases a very different approach. Pianist Dostaler was brought in so that usual samplist/keyboardist Diane Labrosse could concentrate exclusively on her accordion. Alto saxophone (both by Hétu and Derome), flute (Derome), percussion (Tanguay), vocals (Hétu), and various tapes (situational recordings) complete the all-acoustic instrumentation. Musique d’hiver is a cycle of four pieces, one for each month from December to March, each about 16 minutes in duration. They are delicately crafted, slow-paced compositions for improvisers and include short sections with lyrics in the middle. Themes and melodies are spartan, slow, and reminiscent of Phillip Glass, and mostly played on flute and/or accordion. The atmosphere of snow, ice, and cold always remains tangible. La chute ("The Fall") opens on a light, serene cascading motif announcing the arrival of winter, while Perdu l’nord ("Lost the Way") is the craziest piece, with themes running into each other and free improvisation taking more room, picturing the relentlessness of one’s soul as spring (and with it deliverance) approaches. The maturity found in Musique d’hiver recalls the softer passages on Mets ta langue, Hétu’s second CD with Castor et Compagnie. But here her approach takes a whole new dimension as she eludes any extremes, taking the listener on a one-hour trip into Québecois winter, music that oscillates between sound art, minimalist songwriting, and composition for improvisers. Strikingly beautiful, this CD could very well become Joane Hétu’s finest hour. The booklet includes English translations of the lyrics. Very strongly recommended.