Mike McLatchey 4-October-2002 Connivence 1 & 2

At a quick glance at either of these albums one might think you're listening to an album by a band named Connivence. That's not exactly true, although one could not blame you for thinking so. No, Connivence is not an anthology or collection either, despite the presence of several groups and musicians on here. In truth, Connivence falls somewhere in between, as a collective of musicians who came together to create music as a gestalt.

In fact, if I were to list every musician and group that makes up the first album by the Quebecois collective, I probably wouldn't have enough left in me to tell you what it sounds like. The general flow of the album starts folky and gradually moves towards progressive rock realms. Of the six tracks on the first side, all but one have no drums, and they generally present the various ensembles (Robert Soucy, Nous Autres and three others unnamed) as explorers within both folk and classical traditions. In fact, even without drums some of the pieces rock pretty nicely, presenting a wide array of piano, string and wind instruments in some clever compositional frameworks, the sort of folk and classical fusions that have produced so many gems from the province. However, the album likely draws attention from progressive rock circles for the sublime second side, 20 minutes of music split between Nous Autres and Oasis. While Nous Autres still mainly works within folk and classical realms, Oasis have a sound with lots of flute and violins in a casual and light progressive rock style similar to obscurities like Gotic and Mexicans Galie. In particular, their album-closing track "Lapin" is probably the highlight of the entire effort.

It's less clear the line ups that make up the collective's second effort, although it's clear that the dominant musicians are the Legault brothers from Nous Autres as well as pianist Steve Burman who led two of the unnamed ensembles from the first album. The music here is becoming a bit more slicker and accessible, a strongly folky, light rock music similar to contemporaries like Les Karrik and Beausoleil Broussard. However, while the first Connivence definitely hinted towards an anthology sort of effort, the gestalt effect is more successful here, portraying a composite band whose varying male and female vocals, swings from rock to classical to folk, and diverse instrumental line up work much better together as a whole while losing only a bit of the novelty from their debut. The arrangements are about as rich as you'd expect from such a large pool of musicians, approximating a sort of folk-rock orchestra if you like. On the other hand, the absence of a sort of group like Oasis on the first album, dulls the progressive rock edge that helped to give the first a bit more of a dynamic variation. Like Canadian artists such as L'Engoulevent and Chales Kaczynski, it's the big symphonic impact of Connivence that finds so many of these albums in the hands of progressive rock collectors, a delicacy and exquisiteness that the Quebecois were adding to folk music while the rest of Europe was doing the same thing to jazz and folk.

Like the lion's share of Quebecois progressive rock, Connivence were heavy on the adjective and light on the noun, keeping the spirit of innovation alive in a form of music notable for its expansive complexity. However, the more homogenous entirely of their second album and its lesser relevance to my personal tastes has precluded me from searching out their final and third album. However, the first two are surely worth the search for those enchanted by this most singular of the world's folk scenes.

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