Home Feature Album review: Mélisande – Rembobine

Album review: Mélisande – Rembobine

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Have you ever listened to a piece of music that made your hair stand on end; that sent shivers up your spine; or that made you react viscerally to the sheer beauty of its melodies? Be prepared for all of that when you listen to Rembobine, a new recording from Québec trad songstress Mélisande.

Mélisande has been wowing us for years with her project Electrotrad. She intertwined traditional Québecois call-and-response songs with hip hop, electric instruments and sci-fi-inspired costumes for a far-out sound that travelled the world. There were four Electrotrad albums that won many awards. But now, she’s mining her roots in QuéTrad, re-visiting songs that she’s collected over the years.

It takes immense talent and determination to re-invent your own career. But Mélisande is not giving up one project to take on another. In the coming year, she will be performing both Electrodtrad and Rembobine shows. Both projects are, for her, equally valid and exciting. Her audiences think so too.

“Rembobine” means “rewind.” Imagine those old reel-to-reel tapes collecting dust in someone’s grandma’s attic. Imagine the sounds they contain. Someone in a family recorded, with that now-vintage gear, the kitchen parties with long-gone relatives singing call-and-response songs that had been handed down for perhaps hundreds of years. You’ve dug around in archives to find them, and now, you can re-wind those tapes and listen to those voices, learn the songs, and re-create them for a new generation. Maybe you add to that collection by visiting elders, relatives, neighbours and friends along the Richelieu River. You sing with them and learn their songs too, and then, you have a stunningly beautiful repertoire that connects your history with your present and your future; and you know how important it will be for the musical and cultural lives of the young people of Québec…

And that’s what Mélisande and her fellow musicians have done. Mélisande’s rich, soulful voice is stunningly beautiful here, and made all the more so by her terrific band. Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand (wooden flute, bass), Jean Desrochers (acoustic guitar), Gabriel Girouard (fiddle, feet,) and Éric Breton (percussion) enhance Mélisande’s superb voice with stirring harmonies and simply excellent arrangements of the music. You cannot help but be drawn into these melodies and be entranced by the interludes of fiddle, flute and rhythm that frame Mélisande’s voice so well.

We have to give major credit here as well to Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand, Mélisande’s partner and musical accomplice for many years. Alexandre not only composed some of the trad tunes that accompany the songs, but he plays on the album, produced it, and arranged most of the tunes. He and Nicolas Babineau were responsible for capturing the sound at Alex and Mélisande’s own Studio du Moulin in Beloeil, QC. While this is Mélisande’s project, Alexandre has been an integral part of its conception and realization from its beginnings in a pub session in Joliette, Québec.

With so many strong male voices in the QuéTrad community these days, it is remarkable to have solo female performers who can carry the flag for their sex. Mélisande’s strength, her novel approach to her repertoire and her great stage presence all combine beautifully to set a standard for other young women to follow.

You can listen to this magnificent album on your favourite streaming service. Find the links here: https://melisandemusic.com/accueil

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