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CONVENTUM

Prog Folk • Canada


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Conventum biography
Conventum is one of those typical Quebecois projects to have come in the second half of the 70's. As soon as 72, Duschene arrived in a cultural circle which included sculptors and theatre groups. For some five years anf much musicians passing by, through, back or away, Conventum lived a slow birth, but will see its first album on the ultra small (and now ultra collectible) label Le Tamanoir. By this time, Conventum was developing a progressive music crossing chamber music and rock. Their first album, A L' Affût D' Un Complot (on the look out of a plot), this music was also highly theatrical, acoustic and satirical, and in many regards if not really avant-garde, sufficiently groundbreaking, but also full of traditional folk music around that time was recorded a concert in their home base which will be released much later (as bonus tracks) and presents a much more experimental phase/facet of theirs. The following year, Conventum released their second album on the same crazy and satirical musical grounds, Le Bureau Central des Utopies released on another ultra small label Cadence. Unfortunately, this was to be their last album and most musicians will drift into different directions. Conventum is best appreciated with a good mastering of the French language (their French singing is actually quite neutral and easily understood), but can be easily enjoyed by most adventurous progheads, as the music is often breathtaking.

Both albums are much recommended to anybody progheads into chamber "rock" music, the way only Quebecois, the Finns and Belgians can do it. Both albums had received a Cd re-issue on the small Kozak label (with many superb bonus tracks) and have been granted another re-issue from ProgQuebec.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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Le Bureau Central Des UtopiesLe Bureau Central Des Utopies
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Imports 2006
Audio CD$21.99
$136.54 (used)
A L'Affut D'Un ComplotA L'Affut D'Un Complot
Import
Imports 2006
Audio CD$19.02
$24.34 (used)
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CONVENTUM discography


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CONVENTUM top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.66 | 19 ratings
À L'Affût D'Un Complot
1977
3.17 | 5 ratings
Kaczinski - Lumière De La Nuit
1978
3.99 | 16 ratings
Le Bureau Central Des Utopies
1979

CONVENTUM Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Charles Kazcynski - 5 Sens
2009

CONVENTUM Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CONVENTUM Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CONVENTUM Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

CONVENTUM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 À L'Affût D'Un Complot by CONVENTUM album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.66 | 19 ratings

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À L'Affût D'Un Complot
Conventum Prog Folk

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars This is a review of the CD which also includes the live album.

This Canadian band released three albums in the 1970s or there about. Their music is by no means normal folk rock. This is chamber rock. Their music can be compared to Flairck a lot and also to Aranis. This is folk rock bordering to RIO at times. The instruments are the chamber orchestra instruments ones + acoustic guitars. There is also some added choirs which adds a lot of good spice to the music. The music is very good on this half of the CD.

The final part of the CD, the live part on the other hand........ The less the said, the better. It feels like a different band and a different galaxy. It is a bizzarre shouting match between the vocals and the instruments. Unfortunate; the vocals win. Just play the studio album and regard the live album as the unwanted cousin.

My overall impression is good though and fans of Aranis and Flairck should really pick this one up.

3 stars

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 Charles Kazcynski - 5 Sens by CONVENTUM album cover Live, 2009
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Charles Kazcynski - 5 Sens
Conventum Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

— First review of this album —
3 stars Once upon a time, there was a violinist that "guested" on one of the more stupendous album to come out of his country and upon the heels of that, he recorded his own well-regarded oeuvre, before becoming a full member of the group he had "guested" for. Charles Kaczynski, for it is he, has waited almost 30 years before releasing something under his name As you'll guess much water has flowed under the bridge and this second album doesn't share much, if anything, with his previous works; and if released in 2009, this was recorded in the winter of 02.

Here we have an album's worth of Indian music, written by Charles Kaczynski and played in a duo, with Dawood Khar on percussions, which is mostly tabla. The concept is simple enough: five tracks for five senses, each his own piece of instrumental classical Indian music. Two of the tracks are medium-long tracks, while the last three (including Odorat /Smell covering a vast 220 mins)) are well over the quarter hour, but it's hard to say which you'd prefer or even the general atmosphere as all five pieces are pretty much in the same mould and often change tempo and mood like good Indian music does. You might find a few hints if Charles' violin playing that might bring you back to the more medieval-sounding tracks of Conventum, but this is stretching things as far as it'll go.

This album doesn't have much to do with the site's scope of music, but then again Embryo and Quintessence's albums containing such music don't also. Cool stuff, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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 Le Bureau Central Des Utopies by CONVENTUM album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.99 | 16 ratings

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Le Bureau Central Des Utopies
Conventum Prog Folk

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars A musical "Greek chorus" and prog-folk classic.

Conventum were a collective of musicians from the Quebecois scene of the late 1970s. This was the second and final of their two proper albums and it is a monster. I cannot thank the esteemed Shakes (our Josh) for turning an old dog on to this new trick with his amazing review, especially motivating was his closing line where he says he pities the ears that die before digesting this masterpiece. Since death can arrive at any moment for any of us I figured I'd best take Shakes' advice to heart and pick this up. It is truly amazing that on websites like this one where so much time and space are given to discussing the PTs, DTs, and SBs of the world that artists like Conventum, Pererin, Ripaille, and even Harmonium largely fly under the radar. Nothing against the big artists as they have done some fine work, yet it's a shame that the balance of attention is so skewed by image, promotion, and let's face it, market forces over and above the art and soul of music. Nothing new of course and yet tragic it is. I mention those artists above with Conventum not because they sound alike but because they are in the same universe of both genre fans and quality. To go wider still I would have to include fans of groups like Oregon and Gryphon in the group of people that need to check out Conventum.

Often described as "avant-folk" the band in reality just plays very complex chamber-folk music, or acoustic music with classical and some avant-garde and jazz leanings. To use one of those nonsensical blender descriptions think perhaps of a French flavored and largely vocal free Gentle Giant mixed with Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists mixed with Gatto Marte. With a chaser of Stormy Six on the side. The primary instruments are acoustic guitars and violin augmented with bass, both acoustic and electric, mandolin, flute, e-guitar and occasional percussion. There are a few vocals but the album is largely instrumental. The playing is aggressive and yet beautiful, it can be light and folky at times, fiery and fusiony at other times. The material is very well considered and arranged and yet able to give the illusion of chaos, these contradictions almost always a sign of mature and talented musicians. "Le reel des elections" pits acoustic versus violin with spectacular bass commentary in one of the more traditional feeling songs. "Ateliers" features guest Jean Derome stretching out some marvelous flute passages against the guitar and violin backdrop, beautiful but not altogether serene. Conventum is not as pretty as other similar artists. There is a good deal of tension and "edge" in the ferocity of the playing. "Foundation" is another good example of this with tense violin and sprightly mandolin "dancing." It builds along with some terse bass playing to a fevered pitch before they pull out a succinctly crafted ending. A highlight among highlights is the stunning "Choregraphie lunaire" which features some electric guitar work from Rene Lussier. At over 8 minutes it is one of the two impressive longer tracks we are treated to. Lussier paints pure atmosphere here along with Cormier's violin. When his electric guitar finally emerges from the dream about halfway through, it is something else. Others have mentioned a Crimson guitar sound as a reference point but I will say it also sounds a bit Oldfield. "La belle apparence" reminds me of the first Harmonium album just a bit, lively with a bit of drum thrown in and like the first track somewhat traditional. "Fanfare" shifts gears completely, the guitar and bass rhythmically playing a trance-like bit while the violin goes just ape-sh*t over the top, quite intense again. "Trois petits pas" is one of the calmer tracks on the album with some beautiful violin over acoustic and mellow electric guitar, a nice moody piece. "Le reel a mains" uses handclaps and sound effects along with the energetic fiddling to create a footstomping jig. The title track is last and it clocks in at over 10 minutes. Elaborate, rich, tense.some of the adjectives coming to mind as I listen to this unfold. This song has some vocals which don't amount to much and they don't need to. The electric guitar does some harmonizing with the violin though it stays restrained letting the strings lead. Eventually it cuts loose and treats us to a lead sounding unique because it's fiery but without distortion. Good closer. The first bonus track "Le pays du bruit" is a live track, mostly spoken, that sounds like some hilarious theater. The second bonus track was their last recorded work a few years later, "Le commerce nostalique" which features more electric instruments and a full band sound. It's great and a tantalizing tease of what might have been had there been a full album at that time.

As a veteran guitar player in many Friday night basement jam bands over the years I know a thing or three about noodling. Conventum music is not noodling. It is highly conversational material where the musicians are both listening and speaking musical dialog. Listening to the dialog is fantastic and never gets boring in the way that some "jam" bands, acoustic or otherwise, occasionally are. I like to condense good descriptions of a band's sound from other perspectives when possible. One of the finest insights into the essence of the Conventum sound is from Progressive Ear's "maribor" who writes "the album is characterized by plenty of acoustic guitar from both guitarists. On top of that there is great violin playing and electric guitar, with the bass a bit lower in the mix....Bernard Cormier must be one of the most underrated violinists I have ever heard. Sometimes he plays in a purely folk style but he occasionally effortlessly switches to a style almost classical in nature. The acoustic guitar passages are very tasty but used mostly to supply the basic melody. It's the violin that seems in charge." [maribor] He goes on to write later that the only thing that could make this album even better might be some keyboards and I would agree that a bit of piano in places would be heavenly.

Conventum is so challenging and intellectually satisfying that I would also like to make sure this gets recommended to RIO/Avant genre fans. I do believe many of you would love this as would a wide swath of prog fans across this site. ProgQuebec has done an outstanding job on the reissue which features good sound and a booklet with a nice history and photos. Much of the text is in French but there is a brief English portion. The large center photograph shows the band relaxing in the home where they recorded this classic in 1979. It's a great photograph and looking at it while listening to this wonderful music makes me wish I could have been a guest during the sessions and soaked in the scene. Occasionally the young people at PA get knocked around a bit in the forums and sometimes they do have it coming. But we also have some very insightful and smart kids here-I was turned on to this obscure, amazing band by a 15 year old kid. When I was 15 I was on a strictly Jimmy/Angus listening diet. So when I can get a pick like this from our teen contingent around here it gives me great hope about the future of our collective musical taste! Thanks Shakes!

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 Le Bureau Central Des Utopies by CONVENTUM album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.99 | 16 ratings

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Le Bureau Central Des Utopies
Conventum Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

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.

peace

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 Kaczinski - Lumière De La Nuit  by CONVENTUM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.17 | 5 ratings

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Kaczinski - Lumière De La Nuit
Conventum Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

This album came out between the two Conventum albums (he was a guest on the first and a full-time member on the second) and is likely to interest all progheads especially those loving the progressive folk of Conventum. While the album is not in the same style (this is very close to classical music) as the group, there are enough characteristics that will endear you to it. Graced with an almost "prog" artwork, the album is really a solo album since Kaczinsky chose to play every single instruments and "sang" (not many moments of singing or scatting) the whole thing too.

Musically as I stated above we are hovering between classical music (with the pre-classical folk music in mind as well), but the whole thing manages to retain a bit of rock atmosphere most notably around the half of the album. With only two tracks that are expressly sung, there are a few more where Kaczynsky experiments with his choirs (composed of his multi-tracking self) in sorts that it comes almost as jazz scats. The overall feel of the album is still quite violin-dominated and obviously this can only lead to a rather conventional fusion of folk, classical and soft rock. One of the (very) few negative remark I can think of, is that Kaczynsky's choice to have absolutely no-one intervening on his album (except for the sound technician) is that he lacked a sense of perspective and the album sometimes gets a bit lost, or at other times borders on the cheesy.

While hardly essential, the album is nevertheless an enjoyable affair likely to please the progheads, especially those into acoustic symphonic music. But the album is nothing to write home about with a telegram; just wait for the normal mail delivery.

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 Le Bureau Central Des Utopies by CONVENTUM album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.99 | 16 ratings

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Le Bureau Central Des Utopies
Conventum Prog Folk

Review by Shakespeare

4 stars Picture an album with the most perfect balance between upbeat, classical, folk, and liquid, vaporous, dark, intriguing, romantic atmospheres. This album is nearly entirely instrumental, with the absolutely surreal layers of sound speaking enough. Ever-evolving, never repetitive, always nostalgic, narcotic, cosmic, and full of a magical spice. Now picture you are one of the few people who know this genius album. You would not be in a much different situation than I am when considering French-Canadian Conventum's magnum opus, Le Bureau Central Des Utopies.

This album, as I see it, is a canvas on which to paint your thinking. It is one of the most thought-provoking, genuinely atmospheric series of sounds I've ever experienced. The vast majority of the tracks contain no singing, but eerie, captivating, intriguing, (chiefly) acoustic gripping instrumentals. With some electric guitar reminiscent of Larks' Tongues era Fripp or Tales from Topographic Oceans era Steve Howe on tracks such as Choreographie Lunaire, this musical creation is perfected. Throughout the somber tracks is a spacey, sedating, in short, psychedelic feel. The sound quality is not perfect, but the infinitely captivating playing more than makes up for it: great violin, haunting flute, and lush bass.

As I mentioned, some tracks are more upbeat and nearer to standard folk, such as Le Reel Des Elections and La Belle Apparence, which do not feature the Frippian guitar or the sinister and/or melancholic atmosphere that the others generate. Though these songs are still very good, and are greatly unalike anything else I've heard, they don't approach the profundity, the uniqueness, or magic as other solemn tracks, such as Fondation, Trois Petit Pas, and the phenomenal bonus track Le Commerce Nostalgique (which is dominated by evolving symphonic flutes). Speaking of bonus tracks, Le Pays Du Bruits is a hilarious, interesting theatrical live performance. Unfortunately, the majority of the song is vocals, and unless you speak (or at least understand) French, this song will do nothing for you (which is a shame, because it's really entertaining.) Le Bureau is undoubtedly a great piece of prog folk greatly under-appreciated, and undoubtedly a masterpiece.

After so long having this album in my elite top, one of my so very few five star albums, I have decide to remove a star. It's not that I find the music has grown stale after this time; in fact, I find it is one of the few albums that holds perfectly over time, and my love for it even increases. So, despite loving it to hell, the reason I remove the star is that it isn't a deeply personal album, it's not top five material, subjectively, it has no eternal brotherly bond with me. As you can tell, my criteria for a five star album is based on extremely subjective grounds. And so with a heavy heart, I remove a star. Keep in mind that I still consider this flawless and essential music, and urge you all to get it.

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 Le Bureau Central Des Utopies by CONVENTUM album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.99 | 16 ratings

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Le Bureau Central Des Utopies
Conventum Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Down to a quartet, Conventum attacked this second album is the same verve as they had, their first and the results are as flamboyant as on their debut. As their previous album had gathered a confidential success, conventum persevered in the direction they had chosen, but they avoided making a carbon copy of the debut. Gone are Bouchard and vocalist Painchaud, but the overall sound remains unchanged, almost completely acoustic. This record was recorded just a month before the first Independence referendum regarding the Quebec separatism, and one can feel that "utopist" issue dominates this album (at least partly).

Lead off track is halfway between a jig and a Ritournelle and outlines the definite Folk flavour that will characterize this album from its predecessor. Atelier is a delightful piece very reminiscent of the medieval ambiances heard in the previous album, somehow fairly close to Anthony Phillips's late 70's works on arpeggios. Fondation is a rather arduous (and lengthy) piece with an uneasy construction (reminding you of the nervous live bonus tracks of the debut), and not my favorite track even if the progression is impressive. Next up is the cornerstone Choregraphie Lunaire, which starts very slowly, hauntingly and creepily grows to a solemn atmosphere that maybe only Harmonium in the Histoire Sans Paroles could approach crossed with a Frippian electric guitar and a Hackett acoustic guitar >> awesome and spine-chilling! Ending on a short jig-like trad folk, this first side offers moments of pure delights, but it is uneven.

Fanfare (opening side 2 ) has a deceiving name , but is well in the line of the album as well as Trois Petit Pas (more reflective and somber). The music sometime comes to early Univers Zero's chamber music, or more likely Julverne. Tic and Tacs actually wake you up from a certain torpor, that you had settle you, but the tracks quickly turns into the least interesting and folkiest track of the album. But soon comes the title track that is certainly the centerpiece of the album. A rather gloomy landscape unfolds in front of yours ears, with a haunting cello, a few vocals (another change compared to the debut album: the vocals are much less present) and a splendid atmosphere. Once again the album has some bonus tracks which are valuable (they come from Conventum's 82 reunion, recorded live) and as interesting they might be, could've been coupled with the previous album's bonus tracks to make a full album. I believe this is important to mention, because the worthy bonus tracks are however breaking away from both album's spirit. If PaysDu Bryuit isvery much a theatrical thing much the same way the other bonus track of the debut album Commerce Nostalgique is a superb track meddling medieval guitars , a jazzy bass and a solemn cello. Overall, this album is slightly less superb than its predecessor (less accessible also), but still very much worth your investment. Both albums have been recently re-issued by ProgQuebec, which all progheads will agree is very much worthyof supporting. Run for it!

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 À L'Affût D'Un Complot by CONVENTUM album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.66 | 19 ratings

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À L'Affût D'Un Complot
Conventum Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars While this debut album was released on Le Tamanoir label, it received two CD release both with the original stupendous debut album, but also the much weirder live show they held on April 17, 1977. For this album, Conventum presented themselves as a sextet, but were often enhanced by many more - including Kaczinsky, Forestier and Leger (Orchestre Sympathique). Their mostly acoustic sound is very impressive, highly cultivated (very inclined on semi-medieval and old folk music), half of it instrumental, and is best described as avant-folk-prog.

So this release could be presented as two different albums and actually are quite different. As much as the original album is superb, full of delicate ambiances and delightful folk and classic fusion and can be used by any proghead to clear his mind of his problem and escape into a wild world of beauty, as much as the live album is demented, demonic, weird, lurking, somber , macabre (at times), demented and frightful, but very impressive and theatrical.

After a short intro, where Coventum ask you if you are comfortable (you are in for one hell of a ride), a flood of guitar arpeggios is overwhelming you as the small piccolo flute and alto sax are accompanying the superb vocal duet (Les Criticotteuses is a superb play on words combining criticizing and knitting) when two violins are underlining this bed of desire: spine-chilling, yet, no-one will resist it. The following title track is much in the same vein, but become slightly more urgent and inquietant, but the lyrics are about as grandiose as Gabriel or Hammill could ever get, and the guitars oscillate between Anthony Phillips and Fripp's The Crafty League Of Guitarist. La Bataille (the battle), the next track is also the poignant theme track from a movie from a member of Le Conventum artistic circle. The mood is dark, grave and beautiful, with the strings setting such a splendid bed of dreams for the guitars to lay it on thick the drama. Le Piège (the trap) is also from the same movie, but is rather quieter but still quite impressive although, it is quite schizophrenic too, with its wild choirs appearing from nowhere, blowing up a storm and disappearing as quick as they came. The next three tracks are instrumental and still in the line of the album reaching from chamber music to slightly modified jigs. Last track was also a theme for yet another colleague's film and it is yet another flamboyant success around a very modified jig>> absolutely masterful.

The second part of the record is a live concert and presents a very different facet of Conventum, much more tense, nervous, slightly more aggressive, very theatrical, but also just as dramatic (if not more) than the studio album. Although still excellent, (but maybe less immediate without the accompanying images), these tracks suffer from the proximity and superb beauty of the studio album tracks. Here the mood is more to a nervous Stravinsky or psychedelic Prokofiev (Peter And The Wolf). Very impressive, but for this party, French language becomes almost mandatory, but their prose is impressively poetic. Clearly Conventum was a forerunner of sorts for future Quebecois groups such as Miriodor and Interference Sardines. Their capacity at making this acoustic chamber music but rendering incredibly rock with just a few ingredients is immense and Conventum deserves to be re-discovered to its true value.

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