Several of my Anglophone friends both online and off who’ve studied French have talked about French is the language of precision. I’ve seen this referenced online as well as a reason for why French gets used in diplomatic negotiations–because it is in fact much clearer than English when it comes to vocabulary. Newbie as I am in my French studies, even I can see this. So far I’m definitely finding that if I want to say a given thing in French, there’s pretty much going to be one and maybe two ways tops to say it.
I mention this because it rolls over into music as well. In music, though, precision is not just a matter of word choice; it’s also a matter of tempo, of rhythm, of melody and counter-melody and harmony. Mind you, suitably trained musicians can do this regardless of what language they speak or sing. My brother the rock drummer, I daresay, might tell you all about how precision is the life’s blood of a percussionist. But in my explorations of Quebecois traditional music, precision is absolutely one of the qualities I’m seeing shining forth. If you want to know why I admire the hell out of instrumentalists who can do podorythmie, it’s exactly because of that–the physical precision and coordination required to do that with any speed at all. And when you throw in the ability to sing at the same time, the precision becomes more than just physical. It becomes a defining factor of the music, and it’s a real big part of what sends me bouncing down the street singing turluttes at the top of my lungs, or seeing if I can in fact get my feet going while playing a reel on one of my flutes.
All of which leads me to the topic of this post: the brand new album by Galant, Tu Perds Ton Temps!
I’ve written before about how Quebec trad is a pretty male-heavy genre of music, and usually I am absolutely fine with that, given how much I’m enjoying all the various bands I follow. Galant, Tu Perds Ton Temps however go a long way to address this gender imbalance and I adore them. For one thing, it’s delightful to try to sing along with French lyrics sung in my actual range. For another, that precision thing? The women of Galant, Tu Perds Ton Temps have it in spades. I am in awe of how their five vocalists can interweave their voices. They may not be as roaringly powerful vocal-wise as the Charbonniers, my other favorite Quebecois a capella group–but every one of their songs is an exquisite, delicate work of musical art. (And when I say delicate, don’t let that make you think they lack energy! I assure you, they don’t!)
Their new album is called Soyez heureux (“Be happy”). It’s their third release, and now that they’ve reached album #3, it’s clear that they’ve gotten their style down and can now spend time polishing it until it shines. Being a newbie to French, I do suffer a considerable handicap in not being able to follow most of the lyrics–but I can tell that vocally and rhythmically, they’ve definitely kicked it up another notch or two from their previous albums. Moreover, from what I’ve read about the album, there is a concerted effort here to tell the stories of women in the various songs. What surprised me the most, too, was one article mentioning at least one song about a lesbian! Which makes me really want to dig into the lyrics and see if I can figure out which song has that story. Because that? That’s an awesome thing to see cropping up in folk music.
The digital booklet that came with the album does not include lyrics for every song, sadly, so I’m going to have to spend some time trying to translate what is there–which appears to be a broad overview of the five women whose stories the songs are telling. But in the meantime I can tell you that the addition of little interludes of violin between several of the tracks give the album an almost classical-sounding structure overall, and I suspect they’re serving as transitional markers between one woman and the next in the story flow.
I don’t know which woman in the group has which voice yet, but I particularly love the deeper voices in the harmony mix; whoever’s got the contralto has a gorgeous voice, in particular. Listen too for the rhythms laid down by their percussionist–that precision thing again! This being the only one of my main Quebec groups that includes a bodhran in their percussion as well as feet adds another unique layer to the band’s sound, and it’s a great rumbly low anchor to their high, sweet vocals.
And I can tell you as well that of the tracks available on the album, my favorites so far are “Laissez-moi faire” (+10 for any song with turlutte rhythms to it!), “Elle attent tout l’temps”, “Virons-la” (because mmmm turluttes in minor mmmmm), “La complainte de Ste-Marie” (for some haunting slow harmonies), “Le blues de la ménagère” (because of sweet waltz tempo), and “Louise et son soldat” (for OH HEY I can actually understand that title, so maybe I’ll be able to pick a story out of the lyrics!).
This album’s been released to US markets, so you can grab it from US iTunes or Amazon. Canadians can grab it from Canadian iTunes or a physical CD from Amazon CA. Archambault in Quebec has it right over here, and Renaud-Bray has it here.