Jean-François Bélanger Les vents orfèvres Les entrailles de la montagne
Review by Cliff Furnald
Jean-François Bélanger is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose work is greatly influenced by his other career, as a psychiatrist, He is a meticulous and thoughtful artist whose work is imbued with a variety of moods and feelings. He says his album, Les vents orfèvre, "tries to comprehend the things of the mind. Intuition, meditation, hope were my tools of exploration.”
This is the first of a pair of albums that explore the Scandinavian traditions primary instruments, the nyckelharpa, violin and Hardangar fiddle. On the elegant “Valse Nuptiale” he works with an fine ensemble of his nyckelharpa, guitar by Yann Falquet and the strings of Quatour Claudel.
There are solo and ensemble pieces that hold true to those northern routes without ever getting too locked into tradition, like the jaunty dance “Aube en Vrille” where he plays Hardangar, mandolin, bouzouki and dulcimer, Falquet on guitar and Olivier Fortin on the orgue positif (a small pipe organ). The album comes to a culmination with the long “Suite Norvégienne” which pulls in a larger ensemble of piano, bansuri flute, guimbarde, bugle, percussion and the string quartet for a varied and brilliant tour of Norway’s musical roots in an original setting. (You can hear the full suite on RootsWorld Radio 271).
"Aube en Vrille" (excerpt)
The second part of this Nordic diptych is Les entrailles de la montagne, which takes bigger leaps into the modern world without ever losing its origin story. Bélanger says that it “tries to evoke the forces of nature and celebrate the strength of the material. I hope I managed to mobilize this brute force graciously."
I offer as evidence of his success, “Horreur Boreale.” Here he uses tenor and bass nyckelharpas, and tubular bells, joined by Falquet’s voice and guimbarde, electronics and mechanical instruments from David Brunet, and Jean-Sebastien Leblanc’s clarinet.
Les entrailles de la montagne has its more traditional moments like the danceable “Pitou’s Trip to Norway” that adds the bansuri flute to the Hardangar and guitar.
"Pitou's Trip to Norway" (excerpt)
"Le Route Vivide" (excerpt)
But it is the more muscular tracks like “Horreur Boreale” and the heavy beat of “Le Route Vivide” that get to the heart of this musical mountain and offer the listener a truly deeper look into the roots of Nordic music as seen through the mind of this inquisitive artist from Quebec. - CF