new music but with deep ties to Québécois tradition that speaks to the fiercely independent spirit of today’s Québécois
As is usual with us we don’t cover an awful lot of solely traditional music on the blog but when we do then it must mean it is something special and take my word this album certainly is! Earlier this year deep in the woods of Québec, a group of mates huddle around a few microphones, putting the finishing touches on their epic eighth record. Their musical intimacy comes from over a decade of being one of Québec’s most popular groups and with ‘Têtu’ (Determined), the multi award winning Le Vent du Nord (translated as The North Wind) hold to a steady course, staying faithful to their Québecois roots while at the same time taking an unyielding approach to innovative new ideas. Sadly they have just completed a small UK tour back in March so we’ll have to wait to sample them in the flesh.
The albums opening track is the atmospheric ‘Noce Tragique’ and from the very first sounds of the hurdy-gurdy and despite the introduction of a string quartet there is nothing to be scared of here for your average celtic-punker. Those first notes that leave your speakers ‘Têtu’ hits the spot perfectly and so begins nearly an hours worth of traditional foot-stomping folk tunes and a smattering of ballads covering politics, love and satire.
The album drives along with the whole band (Nicolas Boulerice- hurdy-gurdy, piano, voice, Olivier Demers -fiddle, feet, voice, Réjean Brunet- accordion, bass, jaw harp, voice and Simon Beaudry- bouzouki, guitar, voice) combining brilliantly and nowhere on the album is the foot-tapping so intense as on ‘Cardeuse – Reipoel’. An instrumental with the power to transport you to wherever you want to go. An excellent example of piano, fiddle, accordion and other instruments coming together. This may be the traditional music of Quebec but the influences from across the celtic nations are obvious too, as well as undertones of the offspring of Quebec folk, Cajun music. I am unable to understand French so I can’t give you much more than a rundown of some of the major themes on the album but I am of the opinion that bands should sing in their native languages anyway. Music crosses all boundaries and bands shouldn’t feel the need to sing in English just to make it. Don’t despair though the album comes with a booklet providing not only the entire lyrics in French but also a brief introduction to all the songs in English. There’s the biting politics of ‘Confédération’, where Le Vent Du Nord show their independent streak. As Nicolas Boulerice said in a recent interview of the songs lyrics
“I owe the premise for this song to S. Harper [Prime Minister of Canada], who announced that he would hold grand celebrations in 2017 for the 150th anniversary of Canada, the Confederation having been signed in 1867. What a strange idea! My ancestors’ Canada is over 400 years old! And my Native great-grandmother probably would have added a few thousand years to that count. So I did a number on our country’s memory. Often times, people have tried to make us believe things, swallow dates, and integrate ideas that had been pre-thought for us. ‘Confédération’ is about our collective selective memory when it comes to the historical events at the core of my people’s existence—French, Metis, Celtic. Events that were meant to put us out a little, to numb us quietly, to bring us to ‘acceptance’. Our memory cannot serve our past. Actually, it should be used to build our future.”
There’s the moving ‘Pauvre Enfant’, which skips along beautifully with amazing fiddle work and the album finally closes with the superb ‘Amant Volage’, a totally uplifting number with the whole band joining in to sing and the music flowing seamlessly away and ending exactly where you came in!
‘Têtu’ is the bands eighth album and the sixth with this line up giving them a stability that has come in useful to become one of the very top bands in their field. Though the lyrics are dark (Satan popping up is not an uncommon thing in Quebec music by all accounts) the music buzzes along leaving you feeling great. It shows that Le Vent du Nord ontinue to hold steadfast to their roots while also remaining uncompromising in their identity as movers and shakers in the Québécois tradition. The album is available to listen to on Bandcamp (see below) so take a chance and a hour out of your lives and give it a whirl. Superb traditional arrangements with beautiful male vocal harmonies, call & response, and even a cappella but there is so much going on in this record that I cannot help but feel that this is a very sorry review of ‘Têtu’, certainly there are better ones on the internet, but what I do hope comes across is how much I liked it and that my friends is all anyone is surely interested in.
(you can listen to the whole album by pressing play below)
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get the beers in and gather round the laptop as here’s a fantastic video of a whole Le Vent du Nord concert from Sunfest 2014.
we recently interviewed Quebec’s number one celtic-punk band so click here to find out more about the amazing Irish Moutarde.