I have already established that the phrase “new Le Vent du Nord album” is at the top of the list of Things That Give Me Joy. But right behind that is the phrase “new De Temps Antan album”. And I am delighted, O Internets, to report that I have that very thing to rejoice over today!
This is De Temps Antan’s fourth album, and the first one featuring new member David Boulanger, who replaces André Brunet as the trio’s fiddle player. Fans of Quebecois trad will probably recognize the name David Boulanger. I certainly have some past exposure to him, since he’s one of the current lineup of La Bottine Souriante. I was also a supporter of the album he did with Maja Kjær Jacobsen, and I own the album Boulanger did called Pièces sur pièces, along with flute player Jean Duval.
Also: David was one of the professors at Violon Trad this year, and I got to see him in action there!
So while I’m sad that André Brunet is no longer part of this trio, I knew that with Boulanger on board, De Temps Antan would be absolutely fine. Now that I’ve had the distinct pleasure of listening to this new release, I can report that this assurance is entirely vindicated!
As with prior album reviews I’ve done in the realm of Quebecois trad, you can assume going in that of course I love this album. That goes without saying! (Though of course, I’m going to say it. \0/) And while I do have a history of my album review posts often just being “I’m going to squee at you for several paragraphs about all the ways I love this thing”, I do actually have some review-type commentary to share with you this time!
Ready? Let’s DO THIS THING.
There’s something about the overall mix levels that strike my ear a bit differently this time. It’s a much more polished sound than DTA’s first two albums, and even more so than their last one, Ce monde ici-bas. But the relative balance of vocals vs. instruments sounds different to me. In more than one spot on the album, the vocals didn’t seem quite as much in the forefront as I would have expected, which gives me a bit less immediacy than I get out of other DTA releases.
That’s a nitpick, though, really. Other aspects of the sound certainly make up for it!
First and foremost, David’s presence on the album does shake things up some. His playing style is a little different from André’s, and at least to my ear, he sounds like he has a bit less power, a bit more smoothness. Vocally, he also changes the mix of the trio’s harmony. Éric and Pierre-Luc are such distinctive singers that the mix isn’t hugely different, mind you. But David’s voice does sound different from André’s, and while he seems like he’s occupying a similar tenor range, just the overall timbre of his voice is an inherent change to the group’s delivery.
On an initial run through the album, though, I can say that the overall vocal blend is still very familiar. What differences David’s bringing to the mix stood out for me on the occasions when he actually sang a few lines by himself. While I do have past experience with his violin playing, I am not as familiar with his vocals. (I think he takes lead on a couple of La Bottine tracks, but I don’t know for sure, and now I’m going to have to go back and doublecheck!)
Moreover, I really need to see the liner notes for this album. The copy I bought is digital, via iTunes, and it didn’t come with a liner notes PDF. And I am deeply curious about the album credits, because at least in one spot I heard somebody chime in on the singing that I swear to God sounded to me like André Marchand. But I don’t know if that was actually him, or if it was David, happening to sound a lot like him!
There’s a female vocalist who shows up on one track, too, and I don’t know who that is either. Stéphanie Lépine is likely! But again, I don’t know her vocals well enough to recognize her immediately when I hear her.
Instrumentally speaking, I caught a horn playing during one track, too! And I’m totally curious about who that is, as well. Probable guest artist from La Bottine, since the current crop of DTA boys are still all La Bottine alums.
(On all of these things, if anybody can clue me in on who these guests on the album are, please do so. I will update this post if I get new data!)
And in terms of overall instrumental style, there were multiple places on various tracks where I noticed some bits that seemed new. Whether they are because of David’s contributions to the group, of the overall flavor of the album, or both, I don’t know yet! But I noted them, and they’re fun. I’ll call those out in track by track reactions, now!
All the tracks, and why they’re awesome
“Projet Rett / PAC”: Instrumental set. This is the thing that, right out of the gate, reassured me that De Temps Antan 2.0 would not be missing a step. <3 There’s a bit of an almost Western twang as it starts off slow, with some rattly rhythms in the background before the mouth harp and the fiddle start kicking in. The foot rhythms are understated, and as they start up, you might almost mistake them for a drumkit. But once the accordion joins it, there’s no doubt. I like this set!
And Pierre-Luc jumps over to harmonica partway through, just because he’s that awesome.
“La veuve voyeuse”: AW YEAH this is the stuff. \0/ Turluttes, baby! And the title’s interesting, translating to “The voyeur widow”, I think. And is that Éric hitting some really low notes on the bouzouki under there? Halfway through there’s a bitchin’ bridge that goes minor–and this is also where I heard who sounded like André Marchand chiming in with a burst of sung syllables, before they swing over to violin and harmonica. And if that’s not André Marchand, David’s doing a very good impersonation of him!
The last burst of this song is entirely vocal, too, and sung words as opposed to turluttes. Kind of an abrupt ending, but cool nonetheless!
“Consolez-vous”: The title track was released via the full album, so I got to hear this already! And it’s still awesome coming back through it, because I am naturally on board with anything sung by Éric. Bonus if he is also playing the bouzouki! This is a very strong track, and it’s easy to see why it got to be the title one. Not too fast, but with a very strong energy and driving rhythm. And though it’s in minor, it’s more energetic than a lot of things Éric has sung in the past and that have rather established him as a master of sad songs. I like the high-pitched vocal outro, too!
“Regret dans l’âme”: Pierre-Luc takes over the lead vocals here! This one starts off with just him and some squeezebox action. But once everybody else comes in, this track opens for serious business. I hear some pretty badass guitar slides and other guitar noises in here. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s an electric guitar, or whether they’re just doing some really clever things with engineering. Either way, it’s badass. And for a song with “Regret” in the title, this is an awfully perky melody line, but that’s kind of par for the course with trad, I think. ;D
Strong fiddle action on the bridge and the latter half of the track, but this is where the mix almost hides the fiddle a bit too much for me. It’s lurking over in my right ear on my headphones when I really want to hear that fiddle front and center.
“La brune habillée en soie”: Time to take the tempo down a bit. Here is our traditional Sad Slower Éric Song! And this is also where I hear that trumpet I mentioned, laying in a few wistful phrases underneath the verses, and on some of the turnarounds, too.
Hee, I can’t follow most of the French, as is usual for me. But I did catch the phrase “galant tu perds ton temps”! And while the other guys do periodically jump in on backup harmony, mostly, this song’s vocals are all about Éric.
And oh wow that trumpet is gorgeous. Whoever’s playing that thing, well done, you!
“Affilons nos couteaux”: Mood change! This thing starts off with a real interesting violin growl! And if this is what David’s bringing in, fuck yeah. Pierre-Luc’s back on deck with the lead vocals. And again, not too fast on the tempo, but oh my yes we’re laying down the rhythm and power here. Some fun engineering going on here with the lead vocals to mute P-L a bit for effect. And some spicy harmonica on the way to the end of the track.
“JC-JP”: Mouth harp, violin, and the bouzouki playing a melody line! \0/ We’re back to an instrumental set here, and as far as I’m concerned, the world is ALWAYS made better by bouzouki melody. Because Éric on bouzouki is just. That. Awesome. The harmonica eventually jumps in, too. And what else really stands out for me on this one: partway through, les gars pull a bit of a Great Big Sea and start throwing in bursts of vocals on top of the instrumental action. Not much, just enough to add some punctuation while keeping this primarily an instrumental set. And on the way out: more turlutte action!
“Quand le jupon dépasse”: Guest female performer! That by itself is interesting to me, but what’s equally interesting is that this track’s actually mostly spoken word, not sung. The guys are singing backup underneath with some gentle dee-dee-dums, and the instrumental tempo is relaxed. I have no idea what our guest performer is saying, but the contrast of her voice and the singing and instruments is nice. She eventually joins in on the dee-dee-dums, and that sets off a chain of each of the guys saying a few lines.
Here we have another reason I need to see the liner notes for this album. Not only do I want to know who this guest is, I also want to see the lyrics so I can have a prayer of figuring out what the heck she’s saying!
Particularly once I actually translate the title. I quite want to know what exactly that petticoat is up to.
“Anaë toujours”: Another instrumental set! Guitar instead of bouzouki this time. And yet again I am noticing a relaxed yet energetic tempo. Partway in, there’s some really cool guitar action where the accordion and the violin pull back and drop tiny bursts of punctuation in on top of low guitar licks. Once they’re past that and the violin takes the lead, we get some vocal punctuation as well, with the boys yelling “HEY” at intervals. Interestingly sprinkled punctuation of various kinds appears to be a theme of this album, and I am HERE for it.
“Reconsolez-vous”: I assume this is a callback to the title track? This is a slower piece (though still on the scale of ‘relaxed but with energy’, as opposed to ‘actively slow’), and our guest female performer comes back–if she’s the same woman singing in a higher range, vs. a second female performer? I don’t know! (The liner notes, I MUST SEE THEM!) The overall flavor of this is thoughtful and a little pensive, yet sweet.
I’m pretty sure this is Stéphanie Lépine, though, just because at least on this track, it sounds like her, from what I’ve heard of her in the past.
“Reelopel”: Feet, you’re back on deck, and by on deck on mean ‘on board’. Instrumental set #5, with another spot where I wish the mix would have let me better hear the instrument taking lead. There’s some neat low guitar stuff that I wanted to hear better, and which was almost overshadowed by the accompanying instruments. (And I’m listening to this album on good headphones, people! My Apple Beats, not just earbuds.)
“Damdé”: Final track! Pierre-Luc’s back on the lead, and BOOYA, we’ve got turlutte action, repeat, we have turlutte action! I fully expect this to get whipped out at concerts to fire up the crowd. (I will neither confirm nor deny that I might have been singing along with this on the way in to work this morning. O:) )
Call and response AND turluttes AND spicy harmonica, whipped in by P-L every time the other guys are singing the lines back at him, because he’s Just. That. Awesome.
Dam-de-deedle-day, baby! Or, damdé!
Of COURSE I love this album. If you’re a fellow fan of Quebecois trad, chances are super high you have it already. If you don’t, f’r chrissakes, get on that!
If you don’t know Quebecois trad yet, or if you don’t know De Temps Antan in particular, this is certainly a good album to meet them on. Particularly now that David Boulanger is on board.
Because yeah. With him, DTA will be carrying on very well indeed. And I’m looking very forward to my next show with this trio of rogues, even if I have to go all the way to Quebec to do it!
Edited to add 11/7/2017: This review has been corrected to fix the titles of tracks 1, 2, and 4 of the album, as I was informed that they were incorrect on the digital release! DOH! I have rearranged the titles in my commentary, and made small textual changes for the relevant tracks as needed to reflect this. My thanks to fellow DTA fan Grace White for bringing this to my attention!