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Sample Track 1:
"Lettre á Durham" from Tromper le temps
Sample Track 2:
"Adieu Marie" from Tromper le temps
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Le Vent du Nord, Tromper le temps Lords, Devils, and Historical Detours:
Le Vent du Nord Speak and Sing to the Present via Quebec’s Tough, Fanciful Past on Tromper le Temps and on tour, November 2012

For Quebec’s Le Vent du Nord (The North Wind), tricking time is more than a mere slight of hand. It’s turning back the clock, to find both artistic inspiration and political insights.

It’s discovering where fanciful dragons and imprisoned damsels intertwine with hockey night, where the culturally downtrodden get to answer their cynical oppressors of centuries ago, and get to talk back to devilish frackers who trample community rights. All to the spin of a hurdy-gurdy’s wheel, to the nimble beat of French-Canadian foot percussion, to the perfectly tuned vocals of a well-seasoned band, celebrating ten years together this season.

Outspoken yet playful, Tromper le temps (“Fooling Time”; U.S. release: November 3, 2012) showcases the great creativity and deep past of Quebec’s folk traditions, yet always with a quirky, witty twist, a fresh perspective that has made Le Vent du Nord one of the province’s best-loved ensembles (and won them several Junos).

Now with a new concert program carefully developed in collaboration with revered Quebecois songwriter, composer, and performer Michel Rivard, the quartet will tour the Western U.S. to celebrate its new album and its ten years together. Fresh from touring Down Under and from a gala celebration in Montreal, the band’s U.S. tour stops will include Austin, Portland, and Los Angeles, among others.

“We are part of 2012, just like everyone else. But we think we can bring historical things more into the day to day discussion, so we can talk about what happened in the past. That is why we have always been very close to historical subjects and images, because we play traditional music, music that is often connected to the separatist movement,” explains hurdy-gurdy player and songwriter Nicolas Boulerice. “We aren’t always talking explicitly or directly about the issues that matter to us; we always take the detour via history.”

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While flying from colonial reports (they respond to Lord Durham’s infamous report on how to crush Francophone culture in Canada with the lyrical “Lettre á Durham”) to fantastic fairytale scenes, Le Vent du Nord musically embrace both the high-energy engagement of a dance band, and the musicianship of a seasoned concert ensemble.

“There is a special energy, this crookedness to our music,” exclaims fiddler Olivier Demers. “Melodies and words guide the rhythms in Quebecois music. Like blues, you add a few more beats to make lyrics fit. You don’t realize that it’s crooked, that it swings, until you analyze it.” The “crooked” feel gives up-tempo songs, like the rollicking, reeling “Toujours amants,” an irresistible, lively quality, the perfect foil the band’s sparkling precision.

“With the years, we have discovered a deep intimacy between the four of us,” Demers continues. “As we played thousands of shows together, we blended our vocals and perfected the timing; even if the beat is a little crooked, we turn the corners together. We wanted to grab that energy that is really particular on the stage in the studio. We didn’t try to overproduce, and left it a very homegrown album.”

But homegrown does not mean stodgy or folksy cute. When stranded by the Icelandic volcanic eruption in Chimay, Belgium, the band lost no time: After touring a local castle and meeting its elderly princess, Boulerice penned “Le dragon de Chimay,” a wild tale of mad carillon players who shatter souls and love-struck, age-old dragons. Songs come from everywhere—from forgotten books left behind in small-town houses (like the matricidal murder ballad, “La coeur de ma mère”); from the medieval French ballads still sung in some remote areas of Quebec (“Dans les cachots”); from good times in rented RVs (“Le winnebago”).

Not content to party with the past, Le Vent du Nord uses the age-old romance and intensity of ballads and their attending images, and the upbeat fiddle and accordion-driven fury of danceable tunes to tackle some of Quebec’s toughest challenges and controversies. Some are minor, but meaningful: After hockey ceased to be broadcast with French announcers on public television, Demers wrote “Le soirée du hockey,” to protest the ongoing erosion and dismissal of Francophone Canadians.

They turn old fables into new statements. Boulerice, pondering the abuses of companies seeking fracking permits in Quebec’s towns, recalled a favorite story from childhood, when the devil tries to outwit a farmer and loses.” In our version, at the end, everyone is losing,” says Boulerice, explaining the hard-hitting, distortion-washed track. “Even the devil loses. We used the electric guitar and the foot percussion to underline that point, that this is serious and that we need to march together.”

Though the band’s commitment to Quebec independence and strong support for Francophone culture is nothing if not fierce, this passion serves to boost, not detract from Le Vent du Nord’s musical performance. The new concert program the ensemble has developed with Rivard may be animated by history and by the complexities of current affairs, but in the end, it is about good roots music.

“We will use those songs to talk about this. We try to be musicians first and people come to see us and have fun. They want to dance or to cry. But we also want to go a bit further than usual,” muses Boulerice. “The fact is we need to be careful with this culture which seems very alive. It’s beautiful, but it’s fragile.”

<< release: 11/03/12 >>