Mad River Records 1024
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Québeçois music is known for its frantic pacing and ragged tempos, but the first track of Genticorum’s latest release signals the ways in which this trio takes a smoother approach. The song, “Tout le long du voyage” is a cautionary tale for young men informing them that life in Hudson’s Bay isn’t always the stuff of romance. It has the constant clogged percussion one expects from tunes from La Belle Province, but also polish, precision, and deliberate timing. This is typical of Genticorum’s approach. “Turlutte hisuite,” for example, is energetic and exciting, but listen carefully to the way in which Pascal Gemme’s cascading fiddle runs neatly intersect the rhythms he lays down with his feet. Listen also to the gliding wooden flute of Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand on “Les Menteries.” Genticorum delight in defying expectations. You’d expect a song written to synchronize the strokes of rowers to be sweaty and driving, but the title track is more of a casual glide than a strained-muscle sprint, and the call-and-response vocals are marked by delicate harmonies. Or how about a Cape Breton log drivers’ song (“Grand voyageur sur la drave”) as slow and melancholy--more wistful than lustful? Mix in some pastoral waltzes, and you have plenty of contrast for the unabashed double-time tempos of the barn dance-like “Galope Deux Bedon,” the appropriately named “Reel Circulaire,” and the frantic “Quand chus parti du Canada.” The last is the funniest song on the album–a quirky tale of a French-Canadian world traveler dismayed over the shortness of women’s skirts around the globe. For the record, I’ve chatted with many Québeçois men over the decades, and this is not a problem that a single person has ever mentioned to me!
This is a sublime album that balances what we expect with what we might not anticipate. Genticorum keep up us off balance to the end. The final cut, “Canot d’écorce” pays homage to the fur-trader voyageurs who established European colonies in Québeç, but does so with an understated sweetness, the nonsense vocalizations of the chorus notwithstanding.--Rob Weir