Saturday, 2 January 2016

Local Sounds: Volume 5.0 - Poulet Neige 2015 Special

Poulet Neige is an awesome website that gives you a bunch of free (or pay what you can) albums from Quebec and Canadian bands for Christmas. It's unfortunately over for this year but be sure to keep in touch with them and register for the future edition. I got many albums thanks to this initiative and I've picked 4 of 'em for this volume. These bands all evolve in similar genres, blending indie, alternative, psychedelic rock and progressive rock together and they're all from the province of Québec and the Montréal area. 

Poulet Neige on Facebook
Uubbuurruu – Swamp Ritual (2015)

The debut EP by this Montréal quintet is quite cool. Due to the demented purple artwork, I was expeting some hard and heavy stoner metal but it's way more subdued than that. Dwelving into psychedelic rock, stoner rock, shoegaze and even blues rock, the band is definitely influenced by the excellent and popular british band Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. They have the same sort of buried Beatles-esque vocals and super fuzzy riffs. While not totally metal, they deliver heavy tunes like the speedy “I Don't Mind” or the super psychedelic closer “Radio Waves”. With the track “Dear God”, they proved that they're also capable of writing excellent ethereal blues/folk as this song sounds like a mix of Dylan and My Bloody Valentine. Highly recommended extended play, the future is bright for these guys, you should learn how to pronounce and spell their name already.

Uubbuurruu on Bandcamp

Richelieu – Richelieu (2015)

The trio from Montréal released their debut full length this summer and while I totally love their musical abilities and the music created here, the vocals and lyrics weren't totally convincing. They're influenced by the old prog rock of Québec (see Harmonium or Octobre) but they also combine this with a singer songwriter approach and some indie leanings. I thought it was a bit kitsch but frankly it's hard to make the French language work in a rock setting, I can count on my two hands the artists I really like that use my mother tongue successfully (Alain Bashung being one of them).

It's a varied album, from rougher moments like “D'la scrap” and its garage rock feel to the soothing “Repos”. I think Richelieu is at their best when they're instrumentally minded and unleash their true prog rock side like on the Gentle Giant-esque instrumental track “Dernier tableau” where the guitarist David Chassé truly shines. The synths an mellotrons are sounding good and can recall Supertramp at times, it's a good album but there's some aspects I like more than others and I'd like to see some more of those proggy harsher explorations instead of pop songs but that's just me.

Corridor – Le voyage éternel (2015)

After the excellent EP, “Un magicien en toi” released in 2013, Corridor released “Le voyage éternel”, their debut album, back in May. They play a vivid genre mixing jangle pop, psych/progressive rock and indie and it's super good! There's a lot of reverb in the vocals, a bit like Malajube used to do, this is one tactic to make French lyrics work in a rock environment, a recurring problem I've mentioned in the previous review. The highly layered vocals are creating a smooth and the duel guitars are often loud, juggling atmospheric riffs and cool bass licks. The musicianship is impressive but they keep things subtle, that's something that one of their main influence (R.E.M.) always did as well.

In the end, the songwriting is what matters the most and they truly deliver the goods. Corridor writes short song (for a psych/prog band...) but their compositions are rich, dense and rewarding. They convinced me with their unorthodox riffs by mixing a strange psych approach and an endearing romantic side. One of the best québécois albums of the year and it's much better than the last album by Tame Impala!

Renard Blanc – Empire Onirique (2015)

After Karkwa's impact on the Quebec music scene, it was logical to see bands follow their paths. Renard Blanc (white fox) is one of them. Hugely influenced by Radiohead's early stuff, the ten songs of this debut album are atmospheric proggy rock with layers upon layers of sounds. I really like the “La guerre des tuques” (a cult children movie) in “Doucement”, it was an original choice!

While it's usually a dark or introspective genre, this trio (with the help of a session keyboardist) are keeping things rooted in positivism but without being cheesy, overly sunny or saccharine.
 Their explorations are calm, often instrumental with interesting percussion and the Thom Yorke inspired vocals of guitarist Vincent Lepage. Certainly recommended for fans well written soothing alt rock.

Corridor and Renard Blanc are playing with the excellent Ponctuation (another band I recently got into) in two weeks, I'll try to be there! Event: @Divan Orange

Stay tuned for a sixth volume of Local Sounds in the upcoming weeks.

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