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Conventum - Le Bureau Central des Utopies CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.91 | 35 ratings

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4 stars This is a very charming and engaging bit of chamber/classical/folk instrumental music that I have had the pleasure of listening to on several occasions, but have sadly not added to my own collection yet. I know my obsessions so it’s inevitable I’ll end up buying it eventually, but for now I’m a bit put off by the unreasonable import price of the third issue of the album, which is really the only version that can be found as far as I know. The first two issues were made years ago and in very limited quantities, so getting your hands on one of those would entail both very good luck and a fat wallet.

Conventum were not a proper musical group to the best of my knowledge, but rather a kind of creative outlet for a collection of artists who collaborated in workshops and contributed to a lot of film scores. I believe some of these tracks came from soundtracks in fact but have no idea which ones and I would imagine considering their Québec roots that those would have been Francophile films that most likely wouldn’t have interested me personally. For you, maybe.

In any case these are all quite pleasant compositions, and there is more variety discovered after several playings than is apparent at first listen. The opening “Le Reel Des Elections” for example sounds like a minuet or something (sorry, I’m not a classical music expert, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently). Mostly violin but I could swear there’s a cello in the background, plus some 12-string acoustic guitar finger picking that is exquisite.

“Ateliers I et V” adds flute and a rather dull string sound that I believe is a dulcimer. This one is much closer to a traditional folk work than a classical one, and includes just a few notes on violin that seem to have come from the first composition. Both of these are quite short tunes.

A longer piece is found with “Fondation”, and here the basic violin arrangement is explored more fully and climaxes with an interesting mellow barrage of dissonant chords where it sounds as if the violin bow must have been very hard to control. Very well done. I may be a hick but I sure do dig the violin!

The mood shifts to a bit more surreal tone with “Choregraphie Lunaire” and the introduction of electric guitar and a very gentle fuzz sound interspersed with violin. This work is quite long although there is a fair portion of it that consists of little more than almost indiscernible violin sequences.

“La Belle Apparence” is another short folkish fiddle tune, while “Le pays du bruit” contains a lot of spoken-word passages in French that go right past me.

“Fanfare” and “Trois Petits Pas” are really chamber pieces, with the latter having more of the dissonant violin similar to “Fondation”, while “Le reel a mains” is another folk piece with lots of percussion, clapping, and a festive feel to it.

The longest arrangement and one that almost sounds like a precursor to post-rock is “le Bureau Central des Utopies”. This one includes both violin and dulcimer, and an acoustic guitar that manages to sound almost like light electric piano. A very mellow piece that wanders from chamber to almost jazz and back again in the space of more than ten minutes.

The closing “le Commerce Nostalgique” is the most harmonic piece on the album, and here the guitar (or dulcimer, can’t really tell) seems to sound like an upright bass at times. This is a lively piece compared to most of the album, and again with electric guitar to give it some real weight.

This is a completely engaging record to listen to, and were it not for the guitars I wouldn’t even consider this to be anything but a chamber music album. As it stands this is an outstanding blend of folk and pre-classical music, and a delight to listen to over and over. Unfortunately I have only borrowed it, so I suppose it needs to get moved up near the top of my wish list. Four and very nearly five stars, and highly recommended to folk, classical, and even fusion fans. Harmonium nuts will enjoy it, and prog folk fans as well.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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