Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Le Nouvelle Frotiere, Le Coeur D'Une Generation

Record collecting is a funny thing. Terms and genres become coined ages after the records they describe were released. No black singers in Detroit in 1966 knew they were making "northern soul," just as none of the white kids a few miles away knew they were making "garage rock."

Trends come and go in record collecting. Suddenly one year, every gringo in the lower 48 wants "Latin Funk" records. After all the good funk records from 1968-72 are discovered, people suddenly are buying "bump/bus stop/hustle" records (personified by The Fatback Band and early Bohannon) or disco 12"s.

"Soft Psych" is another relatively recent term. It implies a distinction from classic psych bands like Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd or the 13th Floor Elevators. Soft Psych bands have the aesthetic and sonic signifiers of acid rock, but with the emphasis on vocal harmonies and without any aggression. Sonic cues are taken from the Byrds, the Zombies, and the Mamas and the Papas.

This style was very big in Quebec. This laid back interpretation of psych seemed a natural fit, especially when combined with traditional chanson balladry. Many older singers like Jean-Pierre Ferland or Les Classels were able to successfully apply bits and pieces of psych to their style. However, in this post I am not going to talk about stuff by cultural carpetbaggers hitching their wagon to the trends of the love generation, preferring instead to focus on some real deal hippies.

Le Nouvelle Frontiere were probably the first successful hippie group in Quebec. They were formed by Richard and Marie Séguin (twins, yo), who had been singing together as a folk duo (a style that seemed to be quite popular in Canada, from Luc and Lisa to Ian and Sylvie...), but decided they needed to plug in like Bobby Dylan and go electric. Their first LP sounds very much like they took a bunch of acoustic folk songs and slapped some electric arrangements on them. This is not a put down, but certainly by the cover of the record, one might expect a real freeform freakout of an LP, no?

Instead one gets mostly melancholy folk songs (including a Leonard Cohen cover) with fairly hip arrangements, but no acid rock to speak of. I recently burned this record for my Dad. Here is his review:

It’s the easy listening branch of folk-rock. Mom liked it too, but couldn’t believe you did. I pointed out to her that all you said was that I might like it, not that you liked it. The Cohen cover was actually one of my least favorite from the CD. I think his voice has a gravitas that goes well with the meaning of the lyrics and the cover is a little too light and airy for them. All that aside, we both liked it.

Their second LP "L'Hymne aux Quenouilles" is not as consistent as their first record, but more successfully incorporates a rock ensemble feel into their folk songs. Confiture Bleue is currently my favorite track from this LP.

Le Coueur D'Une Generation have a similar sound and feel to Le Nouvelle Frontiere which led me to group them both into one post. However, I can turn up less information on them. They also recorded on the Gamma label. Unlike Le Nouvelle Frontiere they aren't composed of ex-folkies, but of ex-rockers, with former members of garage bands Les Aristos and Les Sultans making up their lineup. However, they still sound like a bunch of folkies posing as hippies.

Que J'Aime De T'Aimer- Le Nouvelle Frontiere

Confiture Bleue- Le Nouvelle Frontiere

A Toi Ton Nom- Le Coeur D'Une Generation


Blogger Simon said...

Interesting choice of tracks. Nice descriptive angle on the period (soft psych).

I had to look up the definition of "Carpetbaggers". I had never heard that expression.

March 11, 2009 at 3:49:00 PM PDT  

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