Country : Canada Label : Redshift Genres and styles : Contemporary Year : 2023

Emilie Cecilia LeBel – Field Studies

· by Frédéric Cardin

What a superb young voice in new Canadian art music do we have here! Emilie Cecilia LeBel’s fresh voice comes from Edmonton, and creates a landscape where violin and piano sit respectfully alongside harmonica, baritone saxophone, alto flute and tactile transducers linked to a drum kit.

The five pieces all have the same compositional skeleton: similar durations (from 11 to 15 minutes approximately), generally delicate atonal harmonies tending towards microtonality, dialogue between sustained notes and short notes, luminous scintillations on a cushion of ghostly mist. A few dynamic swellings occasionally bring a little threat, but the general effect is that of a contemplative panorama in which one could see the evanescent silhouettes of Arvo Pärt, Morton Feldman or Tristan Murail (Bullet Time version) intermingle.

It’s haunting, mysterious, inviting and sometimes disturbing all in the same breath. If only to hear the harmonica in a substantial role in proper art music (evaporation, blue), it’s worth the cost! But, happily, the rest is equally satisfying, especially the fascinating interweaving of piano, baritone saxophone, flute, subtle electronics and prepared bass drum(!) of a piece with perhaps the most beautiful/longest title in recent music: … and the higher leaves of the trees seemed to shimmer in the last of the sunlight’s lingering touch of them…

Based on the composition dates of the works on the programme, one can deduce that Ms. LeBel’s pen has mellowed in the space of a few years, for the oldest piece (further migration (migration no. 1), from 2016, for solo violin) is also the most difficult of the lot. Its abrasive, grating microtonality makes it seem more airtight than the others, without diminishing its value, of course. You’ll just have to adjust your mental and auditory disposition, let’s say.

Flawless performances by the soloists and the Alberta-based ensemble UltraViolet (referring to Violet Archer).

I can’t recommend you enough to discover this emerging artist of contemporary music Made in Canada, and this perfect album from our friends at Redshift Records. For me, it’s a big hit, and I think it will be for you too.

The album will be released on May 12

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