Le Vent du Nord: Territories (Borealis/digital outlets)

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Le Vent du Nord: Territories (Borealis/digital outlets)

With this year's Taranaki Womad almost on us (March 15-17), this new album by a Quebecois band is timely, they played the festival last year and delivered their powerful take on traditional Franco-Canadian/British-Canadian folk to an enthusiastic audience.

Womads have always had their fair share of Celtic and African dance-folk but this outfit offered something different where traditional tunes (upbeat or thoughtful) were juggled with original material which fitted in seamlessly.

The title is important on this newalbum in that the songs here explore ideas of new territories – sometimes the new lands being explored, at others the internal landscape of emotion – and aren't tied to traditional instruments . . . so bazouki and acoustic bass sit alongside fiddle, jaw-harp, hurdy-gurdy and percussion.

Yes, it's all in French (other than the instrumentals) but on songs as strong as the dark and desperate Adieu a Village you get a real sense of flight from . . . something. (It is about a man to be hanged who escapes when the rope breaks and so he is freed, and knowing that you are rooting for him the whole way).

Of course there are upbeat pieces here (the joyously jiggish instrumental Cotillon du Capitaine with jazzy breakdowns on piano, Le Step a Alexis comes with accordion of the kind you might hear in Cajun country) and in other places (Le Soir Arrive) you might be in a warm but remote home around a fire in good company while outside it is bitter and bleak.

The harmony singing on Louisbourg pays tribute to the Cape Breton community and the opening passages of Turlutte a Bassinette – over a drone – is as a sad as you ever likely to hear.

Multiple award-winners Le Vent du Nord have an emotional stretch here which is rare and although you'd need the CD with translations into English for full appreciation, the instrumentals such as the melancholy closer Cote-Nord speak clearly of emotions beyond language.

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